Kuwait’s Islamist Proto-parties and the Arab Uprisings: Between Opposition, Pragmatism and the Pursuit of Cross-Ideological Cooperation
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Exploring the evolution of Islamist proto-parties in Kuwait, this chapter revealed that in the aft ermath of the Arab uprisings their behaviour was guided mostly by pragmatism, albeit with diff erent outcomes. As we have seen, within the Sunni Islamist political current this pragmatism was manifest in a focus by most proto-parties on political reform (and not rupture) as well as a willingness to set aside ideological diff erences and work closely with liberal-national and populist-left ist forces in driving this reform agenda forward. It was also evident to some extent in the downplaying of their traditional social/religious agenda, although, of course, its pursuit was never entirely abandoned, as evident in the legislative initiatives put forward by some of the Salafi proto-parties during the post-uprising period. Within the principle Shi‘a Islamist constituency, meanwhile, pragmatism, as espoused by the NIA, was manifest in the protoparty’s steadfast show of loyalty to, and support for, the government and its policies in light of growing regional sectarian tensions and the crackdown on Shi‘a (Islamist) forces and activists in Bahrain. Reminiscent of the 2005–6 period, cross-ideological cooperation to advance political reforms thus once again earmarked the nature of oppositional politics in and outside parliament in the years following the Arab uprisings. Indeed, it provided not only the opposition with greater muscle to press for constitutional reforms, but also political cover for the country’s principle Islamist proto-parties in the face of growing region-wide anti-MB sentiment, particularly from 2013 onwards. Whether these collaborative endeavours between Islamist and secular opposition will survive in the longue durée and entice the al-Sabah regime to accede to the opposition’s long-standing reform demands remains, however, far from certain. For one thing, the euphoria of the Arab uprisings has long since made way for an authoritarian re-entrenchment in many parts of the MENA, with governments no longer showing any appetite for liberalising reforms, and with Arab societies growing increasingly weary of the turmoil and confl ict the uprisings have brought about. In this climate, the Amir and the Kuwaiti government may well feel litt le inclination to succumb to any reform pressures at home from civil/political society. More signifi cantly, there remain serious question-marks over the sustainability and scope of such cross-ideological cooperation among Kuwaiti proto-parties. With suspicion running deep within the liberal-national currents about the ulterior motives of Islamist proto-parties, such cooperation remains prone to friction and breakdown. Moreover, so long as fundamental diff erences remain between the country’s various ideological currents on matt ers of religion and state, cooperation is likely to remain shallow, and directed towards procedural change, rather than more comprehensively towards a multiplicity of questions pertaining to the future identity of the Kuwaiti polity. In fact, so long as Islamist proto-parties show litt le willingness in principle to modify their long-term goal of Islamising Kuwaiti society and politics, the pragmatism alluded to above cannot, and should not be construed as policy moderation.
- Gulf Studies [32 items ]