Are Islamist Groups Going Out of Vogue?
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, May 1
Today’s reality indicates a sweeping decline in the popularity of political groups, especially Islamist ones, across the Middle East. The most recent examples are in Libya and Sudan. It is still too soon to declare “the end of history” for Islamist groups that aspire to rule the Arab world, especially given Iran’s growing support for such movements and networks. A look at Hamas in the occupied Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon will suffice in understanding how pockets of extremism continue to exist in some parts of our region. However, political groups that used to dominate the Arab world during much of the 1990s and 2000s have now come under heavy scrutiny and external pressure. The countries that once funded these ideologies have lost their power, and even the Gulf, which was once the hub for these groups, has distanced itself from their ideologies. The decline in the power of political groups is true even of secular movements, which are experiencing a marked decline in places like Saudi Arabia as a result of legislative reforms and state-led modernization projects. The impact of the Trump Administration’s plan on draining the financial resources of the Iranian regime, which directly funds dozens of groups and centers in Iraq, Lebanon, Africa, Southeast Asia and Central Asia, is another important factor. What is happening in Sudan and in Libya is part of an opposition movement against the dangerous progress marked by extremist movements that almost succeeded in taking the reins in countries like Egypt, Iraq and Libya – but luckily failed. Although these movements appear to have significant differences between them, such as the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and Al-Qaida on the other, they have similar ideas and aspirations. In Iraq, the Americans sought to build an advanced civil society by creating democratic institutions, drafting a constitution, setting up an elected parliament and securing free media. But the Americans themselves quickly took a step back when they allowed religious organizations to participate in these networks. In Iraq, too, we see a decline in the influence of political parties and political figures. – Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed