Islamist Movements from a Social Movement Theory Perspective: The Jordanian Islamic Action Front and the Tunisian An-Nahdha within Changing Opportunity Structures

The recent political upheavals in the Arabic world have brought Islamist movements into the spotlight even though they were already an integral part of the political reality in these Arabic countries before the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring”. The increased political influence of these movements has sparked intense debate as to their political role and characteristics.

This discussion touches at the heart of an ongoing academic debate between so-called “essentialists” and “contextualists”. While the former focus on the religious character of Islamist movements as the central explanatory factor for their (rigid) religious-political convictions, the latter emphasize the way in which the social-political context shapes Islamist movements. Assuming that neither a pure essentialist nor an exclusive contextualist approach is sufficient to explain Islamist positions, the project addresses the following question: To what extent do Islamist movements adjust their conceptions of just political and social governance to changing political contexts?

The project used a comparative approach to analyze two parties with similar “Islamist frames” which pursued their social and political goals in very different contexts: the Jordanian Islamic Action Front (research period 1989-2011) and the Tunisian An-Nahdha party (research period 1981-2011). While the Jordanian Islamist party was selectively integrated into political processes by the semi-autocratic government, the An-Nahdha was repressively excluded from political processes until the fall of Ben Ali.

The project was published in 2014 by the Nomos-Verlag under the title “Islamisten im Wandel” within the PRIF Study-Series.

Project director:
  • El Ouazghari, Karima
Islamisten im Wandel | 2014

Karima El Ouazghari, Islamisten im Wandel. Die Islamic Action Front in Jordanien und die An-Nahdha in Tunesien in sich verändernden Kontexten, Studien der Hessischen Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (Bd. 27), Baden-Baden (Nomos), 2014.

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Religious Fundamentalism as an Obstacle to Peace in the Middle East | 2012

Palmer Harik, Judith/El Ouazghari, Karima/Berger, Lars/Calvert, John/Eldar, Akiva/Meyer, Henrik/Tessler, Mark/Zubaida, Sami, Religious Fundamentalism as an Obstacle to Peace in the Middle East, Policy Brief No. 11, Frankfurt/M., 2012.

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An-Nahdha im Wandel. | 2012

Karima El Ouazghari, An-Nahdha im Wandel. Eine islamistische Bewegung im Kontext sich verändernder Opportunitätsstrukturen in Tunesien, PRIF Working Papers No.14, Frankfurt/M., 2012.

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Gerät das jordanische Regime ins Wanken? | 2012

Karima El Ouazghari, Gerät das jordanische Regime ins Wanken?, in: Arabische Zeitenwende. Aufstand und Revolution in der arabischen Welt, Bd. 1243, Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Bonn, 2012, S. 185-191.

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Jordanien: Reform statt Revolution | 2011

Karima El Ouazghari, Jordanien: Reform statt Revolution, in: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, Jg. 61, Nr. 39, 2011, S. 24-26.

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Die arabische Region im Umbruch | 2011

Karima El Ouazghari, Die arabische Region im Umbruch. Zur Rolle islamistischer Oppositionsbewegungen in Jordanien, Ägypten und Tunesien, HSFK-Standpunkte, Nr. 3/2011, Frankfurt/M.

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