Samer Shehata, Colin Mackey, and Patricia Molina de Mackey associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Oklahoma:
There is neither time nor space here to sufficiently address all of the issues raised during this roundtable. Suffice it say that I do not view the current regional alignments in the Middle East as based primarily on ideology. Nor are they perfectly aligned on all issues (e.g., Syria, Yemen, etc.). As I wrote initially, regime self-interest and self-preservation–in a context of regional flux, perceived threat, and opportunity–are the primary reasons states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pursuing such aggressive regional policies. Of course, as my colleagues have also pointed out, the diminished role of the United States in the region, real or imagined, is the condition of possibility for such behavior (e.g., Syria, Yemen, Libya, etc.).
With regard to my colleagues’ responses, there are both points of agreement and disagreement in the rich discussion of the questions posed in the forum. Obviously, all agree that these are difficult times for Islamist movements, particularly the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As a result of the 2013 coup and unprecedented levels of repression, the Brotherhood has experienced fragmentation, internal division, and disarray. This has resulted in the withdrawal from politics for many, while for others, particularly some younger members, it meant radicalization and the justification of violence. This is understandable, as it has become increasingly difficult to maintain a view that peaceful resistance is the way forward in an exceedingly repressive environment with thousands in jail or facing the death penalty, and while the international community remains largely silent if not supportive of the Sisi regime. If scholars remain uncertain about the relationship between “inclusion and moderation,” there should be little uncertainty about the relationship between repression and radicalization.
At the same time, several colleagues rightly point out that it would be exceedingly premature to write the obituary for the Brotherhood or other Islamist movements. The question is not “is Islamist politics dead” but what will Islamist politics look like in the aftermath of 2011 and 2013? Islamism–in multiple forms and various guises–will remain part of the region’s political and social landscape for years to come (in altered form, of course), especially if regimes remain repressive and unaccountable and continue to fail to provide economic prosperity and human dignity for the majority of their “citizens.” So long as this is the case, Islamism will remain a powerful ideology of resistance, hope, and aspirational renaissance for many.