‘Islamists must adopt pragmatic approach’

‘Islamists must adopt pragmatic approach’

DOHA,  Islamist movements throughout the world are passing through a decisive phase and their survival depends on the pragmatic approach they adopt and how the regimes in their countries accept their presence.

This was the opinion of speakers at a Brookings Doha Center symposium titled ‘Mugged by reality: Are Islamist movements in a state of crisis?” on Wednesday.

Shadi Hamid, deputy director of Brookings Doha Center, and Fares Braizat, associate professor and head of research, SESRI, Qatar University, said that the Islamists must come to terms with the reality and moderate their views in order to overcome the crisis they are facing.

Nizar Hamzeh, dean of arts and sciences at the American University of Kuwait, however, said that the Islamists were capable of charting their course out of the crisis without making any radical change in their policies.

Hamid said that the golden period for the Islamists was during the rule of former US President George Bush.

“His hardline approach towards the Islamists helped the movements grow and Hamas is a glowing example of it.” He also suggested the Islamist parties to adopt political and constitutional methods to fight repression or opposition.

Expressing serious doubts over the Islamists desire to govern, Hamid said, “Why did the Muslim Brotherhood field only 22 and 110 candidates in Jordan and Egypt respectively when it could have fielded more candidates and won more seats.

Moreover, there is a widespread confusion among the Islamists about what they would do with Israel if they come to power.

The Islamists must reach out to non- Islamic countries and complement the US President Barack Obama’s attempt to engage in dialogue.” Hamzeh countered Hamid’s view by stating that not all Islamist outfits were confused in their approach.

“For example, Hezbollah is an Islamist organisation, which has not only gained more popularity but also strength during the last 18 years.

It is waging both armed and non-armed Jihad against repressive Israel.

Its presence has created a balance of terror in the region.

It answers Israel’s repressive and violent actions by launching its own shortrange rockets into Israeli territory.” Hamzeh said that the recent meeting of Iranian president with the Syrian president, Khalid Meshal and Nassarallah in Damascus has silenced all those who were propagating that Hamas and Hezbollah were being marginalised.

Braizat had no doubts that the Islamists were at crossroads.

“They are in such a state as they have failed to supplement their popular support into political programmes,” he said.

He said that Islamists were in for a tough time in Middle-East countries and referred to the findings of a recent survey to buttress his contention.

He said the survey had covered seven Middle-East countries, according to which 60 percent of the 8,000 respondents were in favour of democracy in the region and only 26 percent supported an all-Islamist democracy.

Quoting another survey that covered Islamic states in the East as well, Braizat said, “The majority of respondents in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia first identified themselves with their nationality and then with religion.

However, in the Middle East a majority identified themselves first as Arab Muslims and then with their nationality.