Contemporary policy discussions regarding Islamism and terrorism too often fail to draw the distinctions between democratic and reformist Islamism, Islamism as part of a national liberation movement, and finally, militant Islamism in the form of global Jihadist organizations. This article provides a comparative examination of three key Islamist movements – the Palestinian movement Hamas, the Lebanese Hizbullah movement, and the Jordanian Islamic Action Front. These three organizations have made different choices regarding reform, revolution, democracy and terrorism. This paper explains the origins and development of each of the three movements, noting the critical importance of domestic setting and social context in determining when Islamist movements opt for ballots or bullets, with strong implications for effective counter-terrorism and pro-democracy strategies.
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