World Politics

Review Article

Can Islamists Become Moderates? Rethinking the Inclusion-Moderation Hypothesis

Jillian Schwedlera1*

a1 University of Massachusetts, Email:

Omar Ashour. 2009. The De-Radicalization of Jihadists: Transforming Armed Islamist Movements. New York: Routledge Publishers, 205 pp.

Asef Bayat. 2007. Making Islam Democratic: Social Movements and the Post-Islamist Turn. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 320 pp.

Michaelle L. Browers. 2009. Political Ideology in the Arab World: Accommodation and Transformation. New York: Cambridge University Press, 210 pp.

Gunes Murat Tezcur. 2010. The Paradox of Moderation: Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey. Austin: University of Texas Press, 320 pp.

Berna Turam. 2007. Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement. Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 240 pp.

Carrie Rosefsky Wickham. 2004. “The Path to Moderation: Strategy and Learning in the Formation of Egypt's Wasat Party.” Comparative Politics 36, no. 2 (January): 205–28.


Recent years have seen a surge of studies that examine the inclusion-moderation hypothesis with reference to political Islam: the idea that political groups and individuals may become more moderate as a result of their inclusion in pluralist political processes. Most of these interventions adopt one of three foci: (1) the behavioral moderation of groups; (2) the ideological moderation of groups; and (3) the ideological moderation of individuals. After a discussion of various definitions of moderate and radical, the concept of moderation, and the centrality of moderation to studies of democratization, the author examines the scholarship on political Islam that falls within each approach. She then examines several studies that raise questions about sequencing: how mechanisms linking inclusion and moderation are posited and how other approaches might better explain Islamist moderation. Finally, she offers a critical analysis of the behavior-ideology binary that animates many of these models and suggests some fruitful paths for future research.

(Online publication April 07 2011)

Jillian Schwedler is an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is author of Faith in Moderation: Islamist Parties in Jordan and Yemen (2006) and, most recently, editor (with Laleh Khalili) of Policing and Prisons in the Middle East (2010). Schwedler is currently finishing a book manuscript tentatively titled “Protesting Jordan: Space, Law, Dissent.”

* Numerous individuals graciously read various drafts of this essay and discussed its central arguments. I am particularly grateful to Jason Brownlee, Laryssa Chomiak, Janine Astrid Clark, Barbara Cruikshank, Sam Fayyaz, Pete Moore, Frederic Schaffer, Joshua Stacher, Gunes Murat Tezcur, Lisa Wedeen, and Carrie Rosefsky Wickham. Three anonymous reviewers for World Politics also provided detailed comments that considerably improved the essay. All errors and failings are of course my own.