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The Key to Arab Reform: Moderate Islamists

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For decades, Arab regimes have used scare tactics to encourage the United States and Europe to support their repressive measures toward Islamist movements by invoking the image of anti-Western fanatics taking power through the ballot box. However, today's moderate Islamists no longer match this nightmare. Political actors or observers who still insist that there is no such thing as a "moderate Islamist" miss the reality that activist organizations in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and Yemen have evolved after decades of failed opposition to repressive regimes. Instead of clinging to fantasies of theocratic states, many Islamist movements now see the wisdom of competing peacefully for shares of political power and working within existing institutions to promote gradual democratic openings.

To advance significant political reform in the Arab world, the United States and Europe need to engage moderate Islamists, argues Carnegie Endowment senior associate Amr Hamzawy in this new Policy Brief. This is less thorny than it might seem, as many Islamists groups and parties have embraced democratic procedures and shown a strong commitment to the rule of law.