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Why We Need Political Islam

MADRID – US President Donald Trump has put on the back burner an executive order that would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. He should leave it there permanently. Inclusive governments that are seen to represent the overwhelmingly devout Muslim societies of the Arab world are a vital antidote to global jihadism.

To be sure, the Muslim Brotherhood has not always fully embodied democratic values. In Egypt, for example, President Mohamed Morsi’s government treated democracy as a winner-take-all proposition – and was ousted after little more than a year.

But addressing such shortcomings by ostracizing legitimate religious-political options merely reinforces jihadist recruiters’ argument that violence is the only way to secure reform. That’s what happened when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi – Morsi’s successor after the 2013 coup d’état – adopted a zero-sum approach to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Where Islamist parties have been given space for political action, they have shown a capacity to take advantage of it, often advocating political participation as a superior alternative to violence. And, indeed, Islamist parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are engaged in legitimate political activities in several countries – activities that have often driven them to moderate their views.