Internal and External Mobilisation in Opposition and in Office: Comparing the Strategies of Hamas in Gaza and an-Nahda Movement in Tunisia
My project aims to expand findings of my doctoral research on Hamas's mobilisation in Gaza by comparing and contrasting them with an-Nahda's mobilisation in Tunisia. The specific focus of the work is on these movements' respective organisational structures. My central questions are how the two Muslim Brotherhood Movements mobilise, educate and train their own activists, how these activists then go on to form their internal organisational structures, and how they mobilise the public within their own local communities. I examine the peculiarities of this mobilisation process firstly during the period in which Hamas and an-Nahda were in opposition, and secondly during the years when they were in power, and I emphasise how the transition to power affected their capacity to mobilise and the strategies they used to overcome problems of mobilisation.
My main premise is that this critical perspective cannot be developed simply by analysing each party's level of political discourse; it must also encompass activists' organisational practices and their interactions with their own local communities at the micro-level. This framing will allow for a more comprehensive and nuanced picture of both movements' political practices at a broader state-level as well. Unlike most studies that examine Islamic movements only while in opposition, this research examines the role of these movements once they become state actors as well. The focus therefore not only is on the impacts of the state on Hamas's and an-Nahda's forms of mobilisation, but also on both movements' agency as dynamic and transitory political actors.
By 'internal mobilization,' I refer to the ideological encouragement and training of a cadre of activists who then implement and manage mobilisation activities. Empirical studies on internal mobilisation are still scarce, and are limited to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Scholars elaborated on how the Muslim Brotherhood encourages supporters to become full members. They highlight the central role of religion and ideology to explain the survival of the movement despite political repression. In my research on Hamas, I trace different stages of education and training as well as activism to the level at which the activist becomes a leader. I also examined the effects Hamas's ascendance to power had on its internal structure. From this viewpoint, an-Nahda offers an interesting parallel in that it shares similar traditions of internal mobilisation with Hamas, especially because it also came to power in Tunisia and was subsequently forced to face demobilisation and a comparative loss of popular support. Hamas responded by seeking a requalification of some members and restricting membership and upward mobility within the membership ranking. However, an-Nahda started to question the validity of this system, and is now considering abandoning this Muslim Brotherhood-based system in favour of transforming itself into a "conventional political party."
By 'external mobilization,' I refer to the way in which trained activists carry out their activities to mobilise the public. External mobilisation has already been considered in prominent studies on Islamic organised mobilisation. Existing scholarship generally links mobilising potential to the role of Islamic social institutions such as clinics, charities and schools. Nevertheless, these studies did not explain how Islamic movements are able to capitalise on the services of these institutions in the first place. For instance, it remains unclear how the Islamic movement translated the services of such institutions into electoral gains. The missing political element lies in the process of linking the beneficiaries of Islamic social institutions to the movement's local activists, who turn them into voters at election time. To explore this further, I intend to examine Hamas's Usrat al-Masjed (Family of the Mosque), which mediates between the movement's public activities (such as Islamic social institutions) and the mobilisation of local communities. The Family of the Mosque constructs informal networks and ties by exploiting kinship, friendship, acquaintances and neighbourliness in its local community. I also examine the impacts of Hamas's transition to power on the role of the Family of the Mosque and its process of external mobilisation.
I plan to compare findings on Hamas with an-Nahda's forms of external mobilisation and the impacts of its ascension to power. I also examine the mechanisms an-Nahda intend to use in order to maintain localised mobilisation if it goes along with its stated plans to abandon its Muslim Brotherhood traditions of external mobilisation. I examine the way internal and external mobilisation can intersect to change the local level in favour of the movement at the state-level — what many scholars called the bottom-up approach of Muslim Brotherhood movements.