The political arm of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood stands poised to achieve more political influence than almost any of its sister movements in the Middle East, yet must strike a balance between building a broad political coalition and pursuing its goal of Islamization – a vision for the nation challenged by a number of Kuwaiti political actors.  How will this need for compromise affect future democratic reforms in the country, as well as the Brotherhood’s long-term goal of a more Islamic society? 

In this Carnegie Paper, Pushing toward Party Politics? Kuwait’s Islamic Constitutional Movement, Nathan Brown, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, explores how the Islamic Constitutional Movement (ICM), in an effort to gain political legitimacy, has pursued democratic reforms and formed alliances with other opposition forces it regards as unsympathetic to its religious, cultural, and moral values.

Despite critics who question the ICM’s commitment to democratic principles, Brown argues that the ICM “supports liberalizing political reforms fairly faithfully, but it draws the line when liberalization leads in a cultural direction” contrary to its goals of Islamization.  The ICM holds strong positions against perceived moral corruption in Kuwaiti society, often using forceful language that it eschews on most other occasions.

Brown believes that the ICM is entering a period of greater tension in its relationship with the government and while the relatively permissive political atmosphere in Kuwait will probably survive, the current tension will force all political actors to develop new strategies to achieve their objectives.

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About the Author
Nathan J. Brown is a senior associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment, and co-author of the Carnegie Paper Islamist Movements and the Democratic Process in the Arab World: Exploring Gray Zones. He is also a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.