The Best of Times and Worst of Times for Moderate Political Islam

By Paul Salem

Paul Salem is vice president for policy and research at The Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East.  He has a particular emphasis on the countries of the Levant and Egypt. Salem writes regularly in the Arab and Western press and has been published in numerous journals and newspapers. Salem is the author of a number of books and reports including Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994), Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997), Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013), The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam (CSIS, 2015), The Middle East in 2015 and Beyond: Trends and Drivers (MEI 2014). Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013.  From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon's leading public policy think tank.

The concept of political Islam has deep historical roots in Islamic societies and, during the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 in the Middle East and North Africa, many moderate political Islamist groups rose to prominence. In Egypt, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood won the presidency.  Since then, however, Morsi has been overthrown and imprisoned, while a harsh political backlash against the revolutionary movements of the Arab Spring has forced many of the region’s political Islamists groups out of power or into hiding. The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with Paul Salem, Vice President for Policy and Research at The Middle East Institute, about political Islam’s origins and its future.

The Cipher Brief: What is your definition of political Islam?

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