The main question I explore in my dissertation is, "Why are some Islamic movements forming political parties while others are staying as movements?" Although many observers assume that Islamist movements tend to be radical, numerous movements across the Muslim world have deliberately chosen to attempt to work within the existing political system by formally becoming political parties. Cases of such transformation have occurred in democracies (e.g. Indonesia) and in authoritarian regimes (e.g. Yemen), and in countries using Islamic law (e.g. Jordan) as well as in those with secular legal systems (e.g. Turkey). Hence, it cannot be explained as a function of political liberalization. My findings also challenge the argument that a rising Muslim middle class is driving the creation of new Islamic political parties (IPPs): sometimes IPPs form in the absence of a middle class, and sometimes they do not form even despite considerable middle-class pressure. Thus, IPP formation presents a widespread and important yet unexplored political puzzle in the Muslim world vis-à-vis the question of Muslim democracy--a discussion my dissertation takes head-on.
I argue that factors internal to Islamist movements matter for understanding why some movements become parties and others do not. I have found that movements with a vanguard mobilization strategy, in which a small group of leaders frame the cause and mobilize masses around an Islamic identity, tend to establish parties. In contrast, movements with a grassroots mobilization strategy in which the aim is to construct mass consciousness through grassroots activities tend to remain outside of formal politics, eschewing party formation.
I develop my argument based on in-depth qualitative fieldwork in three countries on five Islamist movements: Turkey and Morocco each host one movement that became a party (National View Movement/Turkey, Unity and Reform Movement/Morocco); and one that rejects party formation (Gűlen Movement/Turkey, Justice and Spirituality Movement/Morocco). Jordan, meanwhile, hosts the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned the Islamic Action Front Party, and provides an interesting case of movement-party co-existence. These five cases vary on the question of whether and when a party was formed, thereby controlling for the influence of external factors and focusing on internal dynamics.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. July 2011. Major: Political science. Advisors: David Samuels, Kethleen Collins. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 252 pages, appendix A.
Between movement and party: Islamic political party formation in Jordan, Morocco and Turkey.
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