Chuchu Zhang and Yahia H. Zoubir
Dr. Zhang is in the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University, China; and Dr. Zoubir is in KEDGE Business School, Marseille, France.
A recurrent question is whether Islamist parties surreptitiously capitalize on political change to weaken or establish their own authoritarianism. In this article, we contend that the answer to this question depends largely on how ruling elites in authoritarian systems structure and manage the Islamist marketplace, thus affecting the position of Islam in politics and society. In our comparative analysis of Tunisia and Algeria, we distinguish between a state-dominated Islamist marketplace and a managed, open, pluralist Islamist marketplace. We postulate that Islamist parties in monopolized Islamist marketplaces are more likely to gain ground when they challenge authoritarianism. Thus, the marginalization/repression of Islamist political parties cannot, nor should it, seek to eliminate Islamist sentiments, while the opening of an Islamist pluralist marketplace is less likely to produce a hegemonic Islamist political party. The analysis of the trajectories of the Islamist movements informs on the management of Islamism and provides lessons for MENA and, conceivably, other Islamic states. Therefore, both policy makers and academics should renounce “de-Islamizing” an Islamic society and focus instead on judicious approaches to managing Islamism in Muslim-dominated societies and integrating Islamist parties into a democratic polity.
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