Panel 25 - Comparative Politics: Faithful Contestations: Democratic Learning Curve of Islamists

Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm
Location: Mathews 226
Chair: Prof Lily Zubaidah Rahim, University of Sydney & Dr Naser Ghobadzadeh, Australian Catholic University

Governance, based on equal citizenship rights and social justice, remains one of the most formidable contemporary challenges confronting Muslim-majority states. In particular, these states are confronted with the challenge of building effective state institutions and implementing policies that foster democratic values and social justice. In more recent years, many electoral authoritarian regimes have been overthrown or severely destabilized. Repeated elections have generated democratic dividends and facilitated a gradual shift towards democratization but, in some cases, have contributed towards authoritarian durability by politicizing Islam, exploiting sectarian tensions and capitalising on the ongoing international campaign against new wave of jihadi-salafism. Islamist parties in Muslim-majority countries differ markedly in ideological and policy terms. Some have participated in the electoral process and been elected to government but many others have been prevented from assuming government (Algeria), denounced by the international community (Hamas) and overthrown by military coups (Egypt). Instructively, the more successful Islamist-based parties in Indonesia and Tunisia have engaged in coalition-building with secular oriented political parties. This panel intends to highlight the ideological diversity of participatory Islamists. It attempts to avoid the stereotypical portrayals of Islamist politics as rigidly fanatical and extremist but as fluid, evolving, non-linear, contextual and contingent processes. By seriously grappling with Islamist politics through comparative and country case-studies and conceptualising revisionist articulations of Islamist political theology, the panel aims to offer a cogent understanding of the complex and granular dynamics driving the Islamist democratic learning curve.