Call to make Islamist groups part of solution in building institutions
A leading writer on the Middle East has outlined the need for Islamist groups to be part of the solution in building institutions, a legal framework, and to strengthen representative government.
Speaking at Chatham House, a prominent British think tank, David Gardner talked about the influence of Islamic movements in the Arab world and summed up how historically the West’s colonialism led the Muslim world to a focus on religious identity.
The Financial Times journalist said the West has always spoken about the unconditional support for Israel which has turned out to the rallying point for the Islamist movements. This, he addedd, inevitably led to the rise of fundamentalism in Muslim countries.
He said the Western policy in the Middle East has been to prevent Jihadis taking control of these movements.
Gardner said the growth of these groups and their influence in society makes it important that West now work with them to build and develop a social, legal and political framework.
“It’s pointless to pretend that it is better to shore up despots in the interest of short term stability, while you keep building up and piling up all these problems for the future and creating a situation in which the winners in a democratic contest are going to get ever more extreme. It’s much better to try and engage, agree on, rules and common values.”
Gardner argued that incorporating fundamentalists into the political system has happened before in Jordan.
“The late King Hussein of Jordan held election in 1989 which were won by Islamists from the Muslin Brotherhood, he brought four Muslim brothers into the cabinet, and was even considering at one stage appointing an Islamist Muslim Brother Prime Minister, which he foresaw would eventually happen, prior to doing that he got all parties and movements in Jordan to agree on something called the Jordanian National Charter, set out the rules of the game.”
Gardner in his new book ‘The Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance,’ said the West can no longer ignore Islamist groups.
He believed the future for the Middle East requires the inclusion of Islamist movements by allowing them to be part of the long-term solution to the region’s problems.