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Understanding “What Islamists Want:” Public Debate and Contestation in Lebanon and Yemen

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For policy makers and scholars to understand the objectives that Islamist activists hold and the policies that they are likely to pursue, they must first understand who Islamists are and what they do. This article puts forth a definition of Islamism that focuses on discursive and institutional change as central Islamist ends, using episodes of Islamist activism in Lebanon and Yemen to illustrate important variation in the pursuit of these goals. Arguing that Islamist reforms both expand and contract the terms of national debate, the article cautions against exclusionary responses to Islamist activism, which can encourage the encroachment of authoritarianism.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2010

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