WASHINGTON—As Islamist movements in the Arab world become more politically active, they are struggling to pursue their moral and religious agenda while navigating daily political tussles. In the face of repressive regimes, they have achieved some popular support, but enjoyed few—if any—concrete successes, write Nathan J. Brown and Amr Hamzawy in their new book Between Religion and Politics. As a result, Islamist movements in Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, and Kuwait have failed to satisfy their political and religious constituencies. In the coming years, Islamist movements are likely to scale back their political engagement.

Key Challenges for Islamists:

  • Engage constituents. Despite poor returns in the short run, Islamists should convince their base of the value of political participation.
  • Balance religion and politics. Movements need to find a sustainable balance between pragmatic political platforms and ideological convictions.
  • Better organize proselytizing and political efforts. Islamists must rethink the relationship between political and religious activities to better serve both ends.

“We expect Islamists to compete in subsequent parliamentary elections,” the authors write. “But we also expect that they will place fewer of their hopes (and, in some countries, perhaps fewer of their energies) in a parliamentary strategy, instead contenting themselves for the foreseeable future to reap the limited gains that parliamentary activity offers without viewing it as the sole or even primary strategy for realizing their vision of Islamic reform.”



  • Nathan J. Brown is a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, a nonresident senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a distinguished scholar and author of four well-received books on Arab politics.
  • Amr Hamzawy , research director and senior associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, is a distinguished Egyptian political scientist who has written extensively on the role of Islamist movements in Arab politics.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world to provide analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region.
  • The Carnegie Middle East Center based in Beirut, Lebanon, aims to better inform the process of political change in the Middle East.
  • Carnegie's Arab Reform Bulletin analyzes political reform in the Middle East.

Press Contact: Kendra Galante, 202-939-2289, pressoffice@ceip.org