Political Islam in the Mediterranean: The view from democratization studies

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Contemporary perceptions of, and responses to, the growth of political Islam on the southern shores of the Mediterranean are still heavily influenced by traditional orientalist views on ‘Islam’ and by realist notions of regional security. This situation contributes to the formation of predominantly state-centric responses to what is perceived to be a monolithic Islamist threat. The issues of democratization and democracy promotion are downplayed in the face of security concerns. When addressed, liberal-inspired views of democracy and civil society are nonetheless problematically deployed in a social and political context that does not duplicate well the conditions met in previous ‘waves’ of successful democratization elsewhere. The prospects for democratization are linked to a situation where moderate Islamist movements are expected to endorse liberal-democratic values – albeit reluctantly and by default – and where state-imposed constraints on political liberalization can only slow down the process of implementation of electoral democracy. Far too little attention is paid to the alternative forms of participation that are devised locally by Islamists, as well as to the relevance of standard electoral processes in the context of refined authoritarian systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-38
Number of pages19
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • democracy
  • orientalism
  • Islamism
  • international relations
  • security
  • Middle East politics

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