There is a widespread presumption that Islamists have an advantage over their opponents when it comes to generating mass appeal and winning elections. The question remains, however, as to whether these advantages—or, what we refer to collectively as an Islamist political advantage—actually exist. We argue that—to the extent that Islamists have a political advantage—the primary source of this advantage is reputation rather than the provision of social services, organizational capacity, or ideological hegemony. Our purpose is not to dismiss the main sources of the Islamist political advantage identified in scholarly literature and media accounts, but to suggest a different causal path whereby each of these factors individually and sometimes jointly promotes a reputation for Islamists as competent, trustworthy, and pure. It is this reputation for good governance that enables Islamists to distinguish themselves in the streets and at the ballot box.


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