Jordan and Yemen, political Islam perspective

Jordan and Yemen are two examples of transitions in the MENA region. However, their experiences differ. Speaking in the workshop at the 2012 ERF Annual ConferenceJillian Schwedler addressed the issue of moderation in their respective cases.

Does political inclusion produce ideological moderation”? Schwedler argued that investigating political rhetoric is insufficient proof for moderation. Political actors may be perceived as moderate only to go on to embark on a fundamental and radical agenda. That’s why it is necessary to note what politicians say implicitly rather than just explicitly, “looking at politicians, what they say internally rather than what they say publicly  (matters)”.

Schwedler defined “moderation” as a shift from a rigid position to a more flexible and liberal one. In this context, she mentioned the example of the Jordanian IAF (Islamic Action Front), a branch of the Jordanian MBH (Muslim Brotherhood, itself an offshoot of the Brotherhood in Egypt) who have renounced ‘violence,’ and often participated in Jordan’s parliamentary elections.

Schwedler then discussed the changing beliefs in the cases of Jordan and Yemen, and how the Jordanian IAF and Yemeni ISLAH party differ. IAF in Jordan is more moderate compared to its Yemeni counterpart. Violence is not a problem in Jordan, with the political elite engaged  in diverse, politically progressive actions. ISLAH is against the Yemeni government taking these steps.

The structure of each of these parties varies. The ISLAH party’s composition is diverse. The party is composed of the Yemeni branch of the MBH which represents the political faction, Salafists, and tribal confederacies.  This creates a loose structure, which is not the case for IAF. IAF is wholly the political wing of the MBH, thus being an integrated cohesive body.

Moreover, IAF has managed to adopt “structural logic,” which has had a positive effect on a number of societal activities, transferring a higher degree of moderation into a number of issues. This work was based on a comparative study, using  “inclusion-moderation” theory which seeks  to determine if each party’s structure and its new practices are strategic, and whether each party has really become more tolerant and pluralist.

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