In Temptations of Power, Shadi Hamid draws on hundreds of interviews with leaders and activists from across the region to advance a new understanding of how Islamist movements change over time. He puts forward the bold thesis that repression "forced" Islamists to moderate their politics, work in coalitions, de-emphasize Islamic law, and set aside the dream of an Islamic state. Meanwhile, democratic openings in the 1980s--and again during the Arab Spring--pushed Islamists back toward their original conservatism. With the uprisings of 2011, Islamists found themselves in an enviable position, but one for which they were unprepared. Groups like the Brotherhood combine the features of both political parties and religious movements, leading to an inherent tension they have struggled to resolve. However pragmatic they may be, their ultimate goal remains the Islamization of society. When the electorate they represent is conservative as well, they can push their own form of illiberal democracy while insisting they are carrying out the popular will. This can lead to overreach and significant backlash. Yet, while the Egyptian coup and the subsequent crackdown were a devastating blow for the Islamist "project," obituaries of political Islam are premature.
As long as the battle over the role of religion in public life continues, Islamist parties in countries as diverse as Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan will remain an important force whether in the ranks of opposition or the halls of power. But what are the key factors driving their evolution? A timely and provocative reassessment, Hamid's account serves as an essential compass for those trying to understand where the region's varied Islamist groups have come from and where they might be headed.
Who are the Islamists? What are the boundaries of their politics? And what decides whether they moderate or grow extreme? These are questions of great importance, which Shadi Hamid addresses in Temptations of Power with clarity and erudition. Hamid relies on his intimate experience with Islamist politics to provide an expansive picture of religious and political issues that are shaping the future of the Middle East. This book is a welcome contribution to the debate on the future of Islamism, one that all those interested in Middle East politics should read. (Vali Nasr, author of The Dispensable Nation)
The best book I've ever read on political Islam and the Arab spring. (Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism)
In this first draft of history, Shadi Hamid advances a bold, counterintuitive thesis about the Muslim Brotherhood's trajectory: that political repression before the Arab Spring forced moderation, and electoral victory in its aftermath brought on illiberalism and failure. Even those who disagree will have to take on Hamid's arguments about the centrality of ideology. Required reading for anyone who cares about the future of Islamism, liberal democracy, and the Arab world. (Noah Feldman, Bernis Professor of International Law, Harvard Law School)
Shadi Hamid has an almost oracular knowledge of the Middle East. His analysis of the rise and fall of the so-called 'Arab Spring,' which he distills in this excellent and eminently readable book, has been frighteningly accurate. This is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the past, present, and future of Islamism across the Middle East. (Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and No god but God)
Foreign policy experts have long had a blind spot regarding political Islam, failing to understand or appreciate the complex interplay between a deeply rooted vision of a purer society and the competing demands of democratic legitimacy and constitutional liberalism. Temptations of Power leaves us no excuse for continued ignorance. It is a nuanced, carefully researched, and engaging analysis that draws on history, culture, political theory, and theology to illuminate contemporary politics across the Middle East and North Africa. (Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation)