What drives Islamist groups to shift between nonviolent and violent tactics? When do groups move away from armed action, and why do some organizations renounce violence permanently, while others only place it on hold temporarily? 'The Violence Pendulum' answers these questions and offers a theory of tactical change that explains both escalation and de-escalation. The analysis traces the historical evolution of four key Islamist groups: the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt, and Darul Islam and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia.
Abstract This article revisits ripeness theory and examines whether conflicts with armed Islamist groups can also be ripe for negotiation. The article argues that armed Islamist organizations can be willing to negotiate and demobilize, but talks are particularly vulnerable to spoilers and public backlash. To examine these dynamics, the article investigates the case of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt. Relying on a variety of primary and secondary sources, including organizational documents and testimonies by the leaders, the analysis shows that the absence of ripeness can indeed explain some of the failures of negotiations. However, when the conflict was finally ripe, talks broke down because of elite divisions and public backlash. The case reveals that there is a dark side to ripeness: the conditions that lead to a mutually hurting stalemate can also lead to public outrage, elite divisions, and opposition to negotiations.
Abstract This article examines how exclusionary policies and repressive measures affect the propensity of Islamist groups in nondemocratic settings to engage in violence. The central argument is that exclusion from electoral politics, from civil society, and from public discourse can increase political grievances, whereas symbolic threats to religious values spark sociocultural grievances; state violence and repression foster a sense of insecurity. The article proposes that Islamist groups are both principled and strategic actors, who may adopt violent rhetoric in response to political or sociocultural grievances, but who resort to violent tactics primarily out of a sense of insecurity. The quantitative examination of twenty-two Islamist groups from the Middle East confirms that exclusionary policies can spark violent rhetoric, whereas repression and threats to the physical integrity of a group increase the propensity toward violent behavior. However, when insecurity turns into disillusionment, groups can also move away from violence if they feel alienated from the public. The close investigation of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt shows that the response to repression depends on the length of the conflict, the level of fragmentation within an organization, and public opinion.