The recent electoral successes and growing influence of Islamist parties in many Arabic countries have provoked a highly controversial debate about who they are and what they stand for as well as their (potential) role in politics. The discussion touches the core of an ongoing academic debate between so-called “essentialists” and “contextualists”. While the former focus on the religious character of Islamist movements as the central explanatory factor for their religious-political positions and behavior, the latter emphasizes the way in which the social-political context shapes Islamist movements. Assuming that neither a pure essentialist nor an exclusive contextualist approach can explain Islamist positions sufficiently, the project answers the following question: To what extent are the ideas about a just political and social order of Islamists a result of the different experiences with the respective political context?
In a first step, the project conceptualizes the “Islamic Frame” of Islamists by developing a set of categories for a content analysis of different sources (official documents, media sources, interviews). In a second step, these Islamic Frames will be put into context: process tracing will show how the development of certain ideas of a just political and social order can be seen as a reaction to changing political circumstances.
The study focuses on Jordan as a prime example for a “successful” inclusion; here the Islamic Action Front (research period 1989-2011) has participated since the early 1990s in political processes within a (semi-) autocratic context. The second case study will concentrate on the currently ruling party in Tunisia, the An-Nahdha (research period 1981-2011), which was until very recently rigidly excluded.
Research Fellows:Karima El Ouazghari