1.In March 2016, we announced an inquiry into ‘political Islam’, its characteristics, and how well the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has understood and engaged with ‘political-Islamist’ groups. Our inquiry heard oral evidence in four sessions, and we thank those who attended:
a)Dr Omar Ashour, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter; Dr Courtney Freer, Research Officer at the Middle East Centre, London School of Economics; and Ziya Meral, Resident Fellow at the Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research.
b)Ibrahim Mounir, Deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood; Dr Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive Officer and founder of the Cordoba Foundation; Dr Radwan Masmoudi, adviser to Rached Ghannouchi, the President of the EnNahda party, Tunisia; and Sondos Asem, formerly Foreign Media Coordinator at the office of President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt.
c)Mokhtar Awad, Research Fellow at the Program on Extremism, George Washington University; Ed Husain, Senior Adviser at the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics; and Dr Machteld Zee, Research Fellow at the Henry Jackson Society.
d)Mr Tobias Ellwood MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and Neil Crompton, Director, Middle East and North Africa, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
2.We appreciate the strong interest that the public have taken in our inquiry, as shown by the wide range of written evidence that we received. We have published 47 written evidence submissions on our website, and we thank all who contributed. References in this report to documents starting with the code ‘ISL’, for example ISL0047 or similar, are references to submissions that we have published on the website of this inquiry.
3.Our witnesses have broadly emphasised the importance of ‘political Islam’ for international affairs. But the phrase itself is contentious. We have therefore dedicated Chapter 1 to discussing its definition, and offering Conclusions and Recommendations in that respect. We have chosen to focus our inquiry on specific locations, and specific groups, as an additional aid to clarity.
4.This inquiry focuses on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, although the relevance of ‘political Islam’ is not confined to this area and we have received a number of written submissions relating to other locations. Nevertheless, the experience of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions in 2011, the ensuing five years, and the on-going instability in much of the region, has led to historically unprecedented evidence for how ‘political Islamists’ have behaved in power and in opposition.
5.One of the parties discussed in this report is the Justice and Development Party (the AK Party, or AKP), which has been the governing party in Turkey since first winning elections in 2003. The AK Party characterises itself as a ‘conservative democrat’ party. But some researchers have argued that the party has drawn on ‘Islamist’ principles, and has been an inspiration to ‘political-Islamist’ parties in the MENA region. The core themes of this inquiry—the values of non-violence, democracy, and an acceptance of certain fundamental rights and freedoms—are deeply relevant to Turkey. Given the attempted coup attempt on 15 July 2016, we have published Terms of Reference for a separate inquiry into the UK’s Relations with Turkey. We will use that inquiry, rather than this report, to assess the implications for UK foreign policy of the role of the AK Party.
6.We also discuss the Justice and Development Party (PJD) from Morocco, a ‘political-Islamist’ party that led a coalition government after it was the best-performing party in Moroccan parliamentary elections in 2011. Morocco’s next parliamentary elections are due in October 2016. Most of our case studies and comparisons are, however, between two particular ‘political-Islamist’ parties: the EnNahda party in Tunisia (also spelt in some of our evidence as AnNahda and Al-Nahda), and the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) which was established by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
7.The EnNahda party was the best-performing party in the Constituent Assembly elections in Tunisia in 2011, held power during 2012 and 2013, and lost parliamentary elections in 2014. It has formed coalition governments with secular parties, and remains a significant aspect of Tunisia’s political environment. The FJP in Egypt was the best-performing party in parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012 but was deposed from power by the Egyptian military on 3 July 2013 following prolonged and massive street protests by millions. It was thereafter proscribed and repressed in Egypt. We have assessed the implications of these two different outcomes to ‘political-Islamist’ rule, in Egypt and Tunisia, for the concept of ‘political Islam’ in general.
8.Much of the analysis in this report has focused on the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the oldest and largest ‘political-Islamist’ group in the MENA region, and was the subject of the UK’s Muslim Brotherhood Review. We have primarily assessed, in Chapter 6, the process through which the Muslim Brotherhood Review was conducted. The other Chapters of this report have, however, addressed some of the subjects explored in the Review’s Main Findings.
1 Foreign Affairs Committee,
2 Throughout this report, we have used inverted commas around phrases such as ‘political Islam’ when their definition is contested. We omit the inverted commas when we give, or have previously given, a definition.
3 See the submissions from Dr Matthew Nelson, a Reader in Politics at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), discussing South Asia in ; Mohd Daud Mat Din, from Bait Al Amanah, discussing Malaysia in ; Abdur Razzaq, Assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat e-Islami party, Bangladesh, discussing Bangladesh in ; and Ehsan Siddiq, Imran Siddiq, and Mir Ahmad BinQuasem discussing Bangladesh in .
4 AK Party website, , accessed 27 July 2016
5 Tarek Osman, for example, makes this argument in Chapter 8 of his 2016 book, ‘Islamism’.
6 Foreign Affairs Committee,
7 We received two written submissions specifically relating to Turkey from Ziya Meral, Resident Fellow, Centre for Historical Analysis and Conflict Research () and Guney Yildiz, a Turkish and Kurdish affairs analyst ().
3 November 2016