In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction
  • Charles F. Doran

"Amid the struggle of parties, where would the respect due to [religion] be?"1

Alexis de Tocqueville

"Unbelievers in Europe… hate the faith as the opinion of a party much more than as a mistaken belief."2

Alexis de Tocqueville

What is the future of the religious party? The authors of this issue of the SAIS Review of International Affairs probe this question in its multiple facets, considering the perspectives of many religions, cultures, and regions. Looked at from the sensibility of de Tocqueville, for example, the religious believer does not benefit in terms of faith from the existence of a religious party associated with that faith. Quite the opposite, "respect due religion" [the respect to which religion is due] suffers from its ties to a political party. The political purpose of the party overwhelms the religious purpose. In attempting to defend the political interests of the party, the leadership often tramples the party member's religious objectives. Critics of the religious party are less concerned about matters of faith, according to de Tocqueville, and more opposed to the political objectives of the party. Proponents of the religious party may be more committed to what religious affiliation can do for the party than what the party can do for the religion (or for the religious faith and welfare of the party member).

Indeed, assessing the future of the religious party requires evaluating whether religious affiliation promotes the party's cohesion, electability, and political durability. Authors of the forthcoming essays examine the changing nature and role of the religious party in the polity. They ask whether religious parties across the globe are in ascension or decline. They question the impact democratization, political insecurity, income inequality, education, and secularization have on the future of the religious party from the perspectives of those in both the advanced-industrial and developing worlds. [End Page S-1]

Divided into three sections, the essays focus on:

  • • Religious parties that are prominent and apparently viable in diverse cultural settings

  • • Religious parties that are seriously challenged by competing parties and are in political decline

  • • Religious parties that fail to receive support for their formation due to institutional and political norms, cultural resistance, or the nature of economic values inside the polity

The Religious Party in Gestation

Walter Anderson asks why a party that is often epitomized as a religious party by non-specialists is in fact less of a religious party in the Western sense and more of a nationalist party. Yet the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) takes on the aura of a religious party in crucial political situations. Part of the reason the BJP is more nationalist than religious is the strategy of the BJP leadership. But a further reason the BJP is not religious in the Western sense is due to the complex nature of Hinduism itself. All of the arguments for the unique nature of the BJP are associated with the historical origin of the party and the societal context of its rise. Anderson shows how Narendra Modi has moderated the religious aims of the BJP so as to make it more inclusive and more electable in 2019.

Svante Cornell states, "Islam coexisted uneasily with the Turkish state" for nearly a century. Likewise, Turkey, although secular in a titular sense, is unique in that political Islam came to power democratically and has been able to stay in power and win elections. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, however, have become increasingly authoritarian and doctrinaire in a religious sense. Cornell addresses the question of the future direction of the relationship between state and religious party in Turkey and the implications of a religious party, not just in the Islamic context, but more broadly worldwide.

Camille Pecastaing writes that opponents of the Islamist Party point to Iran as an example that the religious party was an electoral vehicle "to seize power and impose theocracy." He compares Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen to show how diverse the actual role of the Islamic party is and how multiple the responses of the state can be. Turning to the Arab Spring, Pecastaing draws conclusions of the implications of this broad political...


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