The symposium "Islamists and Democratic Governance: Experiments and Trends" held by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, from October 6 to 8, 2012, was convened in light of the ongoing transitional period witnessed by the Arab world. Given the goal of ACRPS that stresses the link between research in the social sciences and humanities and the pressing questions that preoccupy the Arab World, the symposium was held at a critical juncture in Arab history, following a series of unprecedented popular revolts and the subsequent fall of some of the region's despotic regimes.
The Arab Spring has come at a time when the region's regimes, a product of the post-colonial period, were undergoing an internal transformation, one that saw them evolving from revolutionary regimes carrying confrontational rhetoric against neo-colonialism and Zionist expansion to becoming calcified despotic regimes that bow to foreign agendas and that gradually mutated into "hereditary republics". In the midst of this juncture, the Islamist movements have emerged as an organized alternative ready to fill the region's political void. As a result, in the majority of the countries that have witnessed revolutions, the Islamist movements have been able to obtain a significant number of parliamentary seats, enabling them to dominate the political landscape through a number of alliances and coalitions. Doubts have nonetheless been cast concerning the commitment of Islamists to a democratic system of rule, and their capacity to collaborate and accept others as true partners in designing policies.
The debate surrounding Islamists and democratic rule is now no longer a mere theoretical matter. The ongoing revolutions and the effective seizing of power by Islamists have turned this debate into a real socio-political question that is being tested on the ground. Emerging political events are now eliciting new questions that differ from the issues raised in theoretical and political debates of the past. The underlying theme of this conference is particularly relevant in light of the political changes experienced by the countries that have undergone revolutions, as well as those that remain candidates for the outbreak of revolutions and demonstrations with demands for democratic transition. Indeed, Islamists today are dominating the elections of the countries witnessing revolutions.
This new political reality thus calls for serious inquiry regarding the attitude of Islamists vis-à-vis democracy and an analysis of Islamist experience in government.
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