In This Review

Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East
Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East
By Shadi Hamid
Oxford University Press, 2014, 280 pp.

An Egyptian colleague of mine recently suggested that Hamid, who has emerged as a prominent commentator on the Muslim Brotherhood in recent years, had been duped by the organization. My colleague should read Hamid’s book; so should others. Many observers have explored the question of whether Islamist moderation is tactical or sincere. Hamid’s answer is clear: it is tactical. Hamid has extensively researched the Brotherhood’s branches in Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia. He explains that only a legitimate concern for survival led the Brotherhood to moderate its positions before 2011 and to deliberately underperform in elections held by authoritarian regimes in all three countries. The democratic openings after 2011 forced a change in strategy: now, in order to survive, the Brotherhood had to win elections. The strong showing of Salafists in Egypt’s first open parliamentary elections, in 2011–12, was a Tea Party moment for the Brotherhood, forcing the organization to tack to the right. Looking to the future, Hamid takes a clear stand: “Liberalism cannot hold within it Islamism.” Liberal secularists and Islamists, he writes, hold “irreconcilable worldviews.”