The revolutionary events of the Arab Spring significantly adjusted the ideological architecture of the Middle East. The fall of authoritarian regimes and the growth of protests in support of democratic principles led to another discussion about the “decline of Islamism” and the onset of a new “post-Islamic dawn.” Describing the new post-Islamic society, the Western European researcher F. Cavatorta uses the term new Islamists to describe the new religiosity associated with the Arab uprising and spontaneous collaboration with institutionalized political Islam (Cavatorta, 2012b).
During the Arab Spring, Tunisia and Morocco became new examples of the formation of a post-Islamic society. The success of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is difficult to fit into the post-Islamist paradigm due to its short duration and the inability of the Egyptian Islamists to hold on to the political arena (Ketchley, 2017).
In Tunisia, the moderate Islamist Renaissance Party (Ennahda), ideologically related to the Muslim Brotherhood, showed firm intentions to reach compromise and make consensus decisions that were far from its initial campaign promises (Cavatorta, 2012a). As a result of the parliamentary race in 2011, Ennahda won, receiving 89 out of 217 seats. In the parliament, between 2011 and 2014, the party took a pragmatic approach and formed the Troika coalition, which included the Democratic Forum for Labor and Liberties and the Congress for the Republic. Temporary rapprochement for tactical purposes allowed the Islamists to take a dominant position and influence the formation of the political agenda in the Tunisian parliament (Vasil’ev et al., 2019).
Obviously, to achieve the common goal—the transition from authoritarianism to democracy—Tunisian Islamists were ready to make a temporary tactical rapprochement with non-Islamist parties. Representatives of Ennahda repeatedly stressed the compatibility of Islam with democracy and advocated a free and just society in Tunisia (Cavatorta and Merone, 2015). However, the energetic policy of the Islamist party stalled in 2014, when it failed to become the leader in the next parliamentary elections. The loss of positions was due to the deepening contradictions amid provocations from conservative and radical groups regarding the future of the country’s Basic Law. They were dissatisfied with Ennahda’s statements that Sharia would not be the only source of legislation (Khairullin, 2019). The Islamists took second place in terms of the number of deputy mandates and lost the opportunity to influence political decisions in the parliament. Nevertheless, the party managed to stay in the political arena as opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The Moroccan moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) (close to the Muslim Brotherhood and sharing the same name as the ruling party in Turkey) also showed the ability to take advantage of the favorable political environment and uphold democratic rights and freedoms. As a result of the political struggle, Moroccan Islamists won the 2011 parliamentary elections and formed a government. Despite opposition from the royal authorities, the PJD repeated its success in the parliamentary elections of 2016. According to the Belgian researcher S. Zemni, the PJD can be called post-Islamist in the sense that it does not so much seek to restore the original Islamic city of the time of the Prophet as to create a social order in which justice is guaranteed through respect for Islamic values that have their genealogy in sacred texts (Zemni, 2013).
The examples of building a post-Islamic society in Iran and Turkey are unstable and dubious. However, the Tunisian and Moroccan models, which approached the transformation of political Islam based on integration into democratic choice; the civil state; and the separation of religion and politics, seem to have succeeded in approaching the core of the post-Islamic idea.
The Arab Spring contributed to the qualitative transition of a number of Salafi movements from preaching to active participation in political elections. Note that the Salafi concept, formed in the 13th‒18th centuries, is based, first and foremost, on the idea that Islam has been distorted over the past centuries by various innovations, and to get rid of them, it is necessary to return to the times of Prophet Muhammad and the four righteous caliphs—the “golden age” of Islam. This goal is a constant source of inspiration for Salafists (Naumkin, 2005). Representatives of this movement spread their ideas through preaching activities, which included calls (da’wāt) and a complete refusal to participate in politics (Wiktorowicz, 2006). It is also worth noting that Salafism and Islamism—a trend in Islam and the political ideology formed based on it—cannot be identified (Khairullin, 2020).
Before the events of the Arab Spring, the Salafis did not engage in political activities and limited their presence in the social sphere—except for, perhaps, the Salafis from Kuwait (Khairullin, 2020). However, the events of 2011 and 2012 radically changed the situation: Salafi political parties began to appear in some Middle Eastern states.
They were formed in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. In Morocco, Salafi movements showed an active civic stance and were able to influence the outcome of the parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2016. The participation of Salafis in political elections led to an ideological split into two camps: some supporters considered politics an integral part of modern life and a tool for upholding Islamic principles, while others considered participation in political elections as a temporary action.
Although the liberal-minded part of the Salafists did not achieve significant success and did not become an active political force, the emergence of Salafi parties indicates significant shifts towards the liberalization of the traditional Salafi doctrine.
A significant trend towards liberalization was also observed in the ranks of the traditional Islamist organization Muslim Brotherhood on the eve of the events of the Arab Spring. After having lost the parliamentary elections in November‒December 2010, the liberal-minded members of the Muslim Brotherhood created the Freedom and Justice Party, which won the early elections in 2012 thanks to its democratic program and slogans. Thus, the President of Egypt and leader of the party, M. Morsi, in an interview to the Asia and Africa Today, stated that since the people in Islam were the source of power, democracy would be an integral part of the party’s course (Vasil’ev and Petrov, 2012). Thus, within the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, moderate Islamist views prevail, and there is a trend towards greater liberalization of the organization, which takes the form of democratic Islamism.
Among other things, in the past few years, the public’s trust in Islamist movements and Islamism in general has been declining. This dynamic is facilitated by the failure of moderate Islamist parties and movements to achieve power and their inability to solve socioeconomic problems, as well as the activities of radical Islamist groups. According to researchers from Princeton and Michigan Universities, trust in Islamist parties and trust in religious leaders have declined in six key Arab countries over the past five years, which has also affected mosque attendance. Thus, in 2013, 8% of the surveyed Arabs called themselves nonreligious (“inactive Muslims”); by 2018, their share increased to 13% (Akyol, 2019).
Trust in Islamist parties that share an ideological affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood declined significantly, and their popularity and legitimacy are at their lowest among the Arab public, dropping from 47.5% to 19.8% between 2011 and 2019 (First Annual…, 2020).