After decades of condemning parliamentary politics, Salafis have created political parties for the first time in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya, even as Salafis in Morocco and Gaza attempt to do the same. Salafi political parties are not unprecedented in the Arab world -- Bahrain and Kuwait have had Salafi political blocs for many years, and there was a Salafi-dominated party briefly in Algeria in the early 1990s that successfully contested parliamentary elections until the Algerian government cancelled the poll results. But the phenomenon is unusual. Before the Arab Spring, the majority of Salafis, or Sunni Muslim puritans, condemned parliaments as sinful because they usurp God’s role as legislator. Salafis also condemned party politics as divisive, and thus against the Quran’s condemnation of factionalism.
Many Salafis have swallowed their ideological objections to party politics because they want to nudge the new regimes in the post-Arab Spring countries closer to their own vision of an Islamic state -- namely, one that implements their ultraconservative vision of Islamic law. Salafis also want to protect their institutional interests, such as religious endowments, from encroachment by others, whether political stakeholders or competing Islamic currents. In other words, politically active Salafis do not want their Islamist and liberal competitors to achieve political objectives at the expense of the Salafis. In the early 1980s, for instance, Kuwaiti Salafis’ wariness of both liberals and the Muslim Brotherhood was behind their decision to field candidates for parliamentary elections, with the approval of powerful Saudi clerics. Partly for the same reason, Salafis in Egypt recently founded several political parties. ...
To read the rest, sign up to try World Politics Review
Sign up for two weeks of free access with your credit card. Cancel any time during the free trial and you will be charged nothing.
Request a free trial for your office or school. Everyone at a given site can get access through our institutional subscriptions.
- Strategic Horizons: For Hint of Iraq’s Future, Take Another Look at Vietnam War
- France’s Hollande Exploits Political Openings to Deepen Gulf Ties
- Reality Check: The Real Iraq War Debate’s Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy
- Diplomatic Fallout: Can Putin Rebrand Russia as Stabilizing Force in Ukraine, Syria?
- Islamic State’s Local Propaganda Key to Understanding Appeal