From Bullets to Ballots: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition

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9781412807951: From Bullets to Ballots: Violent Muslim Movements in Transition

From Bullets to Ballots considers non-state Muslim organizations at different stages of abandoning violence and pursuing their goals through a political process. Some have successfully made the transition. Others are in mid-stream. Some have tried but backtracked, splintered, or simply abandoned such efforts, reverting to pathological violence. Many groups could be case studies, but Phillips has selected the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Kurdistan Workers Party, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and the Free Aceh Movement, because they cover the spectrum.

This book deals with political strategies for moderating violent Muslim movements by engaging them in the political process. In strong criticism of the Bush administration, Phillips notes that the push for democracy may have increased conflict by giving violent groups "the ballot" which they use to gain power. Focusing on non-state Muslim organizations, From Bullets to Ballots considers the relationship between ideology and policy. Phillips discusses their origin, ideology, structure, and leadership and examines financing, activities, and communications. He assesses the groups' commitment to elections and its acceptance of the responsibility that comes with governance.

From Bullets to Ballots draws on twenty years of Phillips' experience working democratization and conflict prevention in the Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and South Asia. His recommendations are primarily directed to the United States because he believes the United States should be a leader in promoting democracy around the world. At the same time, he is convinced that the United States must tread softly, or run the risk of fomenting further violence, undermining future democratic development, and setting back its own national interests. This is a provocative, informed, and balanced analysis of the theories behind current policies.

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About the Author:

David L. Phillips is director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Phillips served as foreign affairs expert and senior adviser to the US Department of State during the administrations of Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama.


“Phillips develops six case studies of a variety of violent nonstate organizations that include the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Kurdistan Workers Party, The Free Aceh Movement, and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front... Phillips’s book promotes an understanding of these groups and the context in which they emerge, helping the reader gain better insight into the culture and beliefs that govern Islamic movements and their evolution... The book’s straightforward language makes it accessible to both policymakers and lay people who desire to learn about Islamic movements. In addition, Phillips’s attention to detail, primary sources, and substantive analysis make the book beneficial to the readers, including U.S. diplomats, as well as nongovernmental agencies seeking to understand Islamic movements present in countries in which they operate. In sum, From Bullets to Ballots is not a book that should be ignored.”

—Kristian Alexander, Digest of Middle East Studies

"There are times when the United States must talk to bad guys. While precluding any quarter with Al-Qaeda, David Phillips outlines the shortcomings of a military-only strategy in the fight against terrorism. He persuasively argues that social and economic inequalities and the denial of political rights give rise to extremism. Phillips also offers a strategy for using confrontation, coercion and cooperation to convince violent Muslim movements that terror does not serve their interests--while entering the political process does."

—Commerce Secretary-designate New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson

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