Islamic Reform Movements

A profound tension has plagued attempts at political modernization and reform in the Middle East. On the one hand, leaders face enormous pressures to democratize. During the 1970s and 1980s, economic crises eroded regime legitimacy, creating grassroots demands for political rights and civil liberties. These local pressures coincided with growing international norms of democracy and human rights, supported by the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations. Accustomed to political control, however, leaders in the region feared that democracy would unleash hostile political movements and sweep the ruling elite from power. Pressures for democratization were thus pitted against a desire to remain in power.

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