From violence to voting : toward an Islamist theory of moderation.
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Wheatley, Stephanie Renee, 1982-
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Moderation theory posits that inclusion in the political process will lead extremist parties to abandon violence and play by the rules of the political game. Despite voluminous literature on the subject, relatively little has been written about moderation theory as it relates to Islamist parties. Where Islam and moderation theory are discussed, several prominent scholars contend that Islam and liberal democracy—the hoped-for endpoint of moderation—are not compatible, thus disregarding the prospects of moderation in Muslim majority countries. Others affirm the applicability of moderation theory to Islamism but only in specific instances, particularly where the Islamist groups in question do not support well-organized and well-armed militias. This dissertation contends that both of these points of view are flawed in examining the prospects of moderation among Islamist groups. Using three of the most well-known Islamist groups, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Palestinian Hamas, as case studies, this dissertation argues that despite developing in three different contexts, with differing ideological starting points, and different impediments to moderation, all three organizations—even Hamas and Hezbollah with their strong military components—have shown signs of moderating and can continue to do so. The protests movements which swept through many Arab Muslim nations in the spring of 2011 demanding reform, if not regime change, present both a challenge and an opportunity for these groups and others like them throughout the Muslim world. Once relegated to the opposition, these groups now have the opportunity to govern. This dissertation seeks to analyze the prospects that Islamists will govern responsibly. Examining both the level of openness in the states in which these movements operate as well as the trajectory of the groups themselves, these case studies shed light on the prospects for and impediments to moderation as well as trends which might help predict the chances of moderation for other Islamist groups in the region.