Explaining the moderate platform of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood: Against the inclusion-moderation hypothesis
Throughout its existence, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood (SMB) has consistently maintained a moderate policy on governance. The main aim of this study is to explain this moderation. Previous literature has usually explained moderation in similar movements by an “inclusion-moderation hypothesis”, which holds that moderation results when movements have the opportunity to participate in pluralist political processes. However, the SMB has been progressively excluded from the Syrian political arena since 1963. The inclusion-moderation hypothesis implies, as its converse, that exclusion leads to radicalisation. This study shows that contrary to this expectation, the SMB’s ultimate exclusion from the Syrian political arena in 1982 was in fact the primary driver of its moderate policy. The SMB also participated in parliamentary politics in its early history, and therefore has not moderated over time, as the inclusion-moderation hypothesis would require. Thus, the inclusion-moderation hypothesis does not work for this case, and this dissertation advances an alternate explanation for the SMB’s continued commitment to a moderate policy on governance. This study’s central thesis is that the SMB’s moderate policy on governance can be explained by the Brotherhood’s primary target audience, that is to say, the political force which, in the SMB’s view, can deliver its political objective. As this definition implies, the target audience shifts over time, in accordance with changing circumstances. In 1980, the primary target audience comprised diverse actors in opposition to the al-Asad government: the Fighting Vanguard, the Syrian ulama, and the secularist opposition. In 2001, the audience was the Bashar al-Asad government. In 2004, it was the secularist opposition; and in 2012, it was the foreign sponsors of the secularist opposition.