Recent electoral successes by Islamist parties throughout the Arab world have shown those movements to be viable political opposition to many undemocratic regimes. Most analyses examine those movements only within their individual domestic political environments. Yet equally important is the impact of broader, regional issues on domestic politics and the resulting tensions with ruling regimes. The 2006 Lebanon War was such an issue and one that had a profound impact on Islamist political movements, testing their respect for pluralism and tolerance, and reframing their relations with their own domestic leadership.

In this Carnegie paper, Islamist Movements in the Arab World and the 2006 Lebanon War, Amr Hamzawy and Dina Bishara examine the reaction of two Islamist movements – the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Jordanian Islamic Action Front (IAF) – to the War and its impact on domestic politics in Egypt and Jordan respectively. The authors find that these Islamist movements framed the war within an ideological reading of the Arab-Israeli conflict as an existential struggle between Muslims and Jews, increasing the widespread anti-Israeli and anti-American sentiment among their popular bases. 

The authors also observe that the reaction of the Islamist movements further polarized the domestic scene in Egypt and Jordan and compromised the potential for consensual politics. Vehement criticism of official government policy by these Islamist movements may have resulted in a new escalation of conflict with these ruling regimes.

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Amr Hamzawy is a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment. He is a noted Egyptian political scientist whose research focuses on the changing dynamics of political participation in the Arab world, and the political role of Islamist movements. He is the author of Contemporary Arab Political Thought: Continuity and Change (in German, 2005). 

Dina Bishara is a research assistant in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and assistant editor of Carnegie’s Arab Reform Bulletin.