Much has been talked and written about in popular discourse regarding religion, Islam, and the rise of Islamists and Salafis following the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa during the past year. The elections in Tunisia and especially in Egypt upended some assumptions researchers have had regarding Salafi participation in elections. Prior to the elections in Egypt, the al-Nur Party was categorically against participation in elections. According to Salafi doctrine, democracy is considered a religion, a polytheistic one where legislators are idols that infringe upon God’s sole sovereignty over mankind. Of course, not all Salafis will necessarily break from this doctrine as al-Nur has. That said, it should make one pause when thinking about how one categorizes in a social scientific sense religious groups and religiously-inspired social movements. The uprisings have created a paradigm shift in some of the MENA societies, broken long-engrained taboos, and given space to previously unexposed ideas. It is quite possible that what one thought before regarding these movements may no longer apply or is analytically more fluid due to a change in circumstance and the potential to gain from it. Therefore, this short article hopes to look at these changes through the lens of Norwegian-based jihadism studies expert Thomas Hegghammer’s preference-based analysis of Islamism.
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