While the term 'political Islam' is now widely used in the western media and among western policymakers, there is still fairly limited formal engagement with political Islamist parties and movements in areas like the Middle East and North Africa on the part of European and North American governments. There a considerable lack of knowledge and understanding among some western policymakers about political Islam. There has been a tendency to treat political Islam as a monolithic and uniformly negative phenomenon rather than acknowledging its diversity. The reality, however, is that Islamists cover a wide spectrum: radical and moderate, violent and peaceful, traditional and modern, democratic and anti-democratic.
This report forms part of a wider ippr research project which has the explicit purpose of deepening understanding of political Islam in its various manifestations, countering common misperceptions, and, by so doing, helping to generate more thoughtful, differentiated and constructive policy responses towards it.
The paper focuses on Morocco and the Party of Justice and Development (PJD). The PJD is one of the strongest political Islamist movements in the Arab world, it has been represented in the Moroccan Parliament since 2002, and it will be a serious contender in Morocco's forthcoming parliamentary elections in September 2007. Western policymakers therefore have a clear interest in better understanding its policy positions, viewed within the context of Morocco's recent history and the current political situation, and the party's own history and recent development, as well as its relationship with Morocco's other Islamist movements.
The paper then looks specifically at what the PJD stands for, in areas such as human rights, political reform and foreign relations. A concluding section suggests how western policymakers might attempt to engage with political Islam in Morocco, in the context of support for a wider process of political reform.
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