Event: Religious Radicalism after the Arab Uprisings
The Arab uprisings of 2011 created unexpected opportunities for religious radicals. Although many inside and outside the region initially saw the uprisings as liberal triumphs, illiberal forces have benefited disproportionately.
In Tunisia, formally marginalized jihadi-salafi groups appealed for mainstream support, and in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood triumphed in elections. Even in Saudi Arabia, not known for either lively politics or for political entrepreneurship, a surprising array of forces praised the rise of “Islamic democracy” under a Muslim Brotherhood banner.
Yet, at the same time, the Arab uprisings reinforced regional governments’ advantages. The chaos engulfing parts of the region convinced some citizens that they were better off with the governments they had, and many governments successfully employed old and new tools of repression to reinforce the status quo.
In the Middle East, conflicts that many thought were coming to an end will continue, as will the dynamism and innovation that have emerged among radical and opposition groups. To face the current threats, governments will need to use many of their existing tools skillfully, but they will also need to judge what tools will no longer work, and what new tools they have at their disposal. The stakes could not be higher.
For over a year the CSIS Middle East Program and Transnational Threats Project have examined how changing political contexts across the Middle East and North Africa are affecting the capabilities and evolution of extremist group and analyzed the strategic impact of these developments. This event will discuss the project's key findings.
Dr. Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, CSIS Middle East Program
Deputy Director and Senior Fellow, CSIS Middle East Program
Thomas M. Sanderson
Codirector and Senior Fellow, CSIS Transnational Threats Project
Dr. Abderrahim Foukara
Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief, Al Jazeera
We are grateful to the government of Singapore and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency for their generous support of this study. The report will be available at the launch event and on the CSIS website on December 15, 2014.