By OSAMA AL SHARIF, ARABNEWS
Arab Islamist movements have never been so close to grabbing power through open and democratic elections as they are today.
They have already succeeded in Tunisia and Egypt. They are expected to do well in Algeria’s upcoming polls. And if elections are held in Jordan this year, under a favorable voting law, they are expected to reap between 25 to 35 percent of the contested parliamentary seats.
Islamist parties are gaining ground in Kuwait and Bahrain. They make up the biggest opposition in Sudan. And in post-Qaddafi’s Libya newly formed Islamist parties will play a major role in the political future of the country.
In Syria, the banned Muslim Brotherhood party has a commanding position in the Syrian National Council, which represents most opponents of the regime of Bashar Assad. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas, a group with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and Egypt, has been in control since 2007.
In Yemen the Islamists are reasserting their presence, and historically the Muslim Brotherhood was considered as the largest opposition group to the rule of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
In almost every Arab country today political Islam is thriving, but it is not of one color. The Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest and most popular political movement on the scene, is regarded as moderate compared to radical and fundamentalist parties and groups such as Al Tahrir Party. In Iraq Shiite Islamist parties, some of which have strong ties with Iran, have jockeyed for power and became major political players. Most Sunni parties have allied themselves with a secular coalition led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki has been accused of stirring anti-Sunni sentiments in an attempt to monopolize government.
It is now clear that the biggest winners from the Arab Spring, the popular wave of non-ideological anti-regime uprisings that have been sweeping the region for more than a year, are the Islamists. They have already won a majority in Tunisian, Egyptian and Moroccan parliamentary elections.
But can they be trusted to deliver and maintain a civil state which enshrines democracy and pluralism? Furthermore, can they confront the complicated social, economic and political challenges which previous governments have failed to meet?