Ioana Emy Matesan | Journal of Global Security Studies
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.