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Ennahda: Democratic conservatives, not Islamists

Tunisians with Tunisian flagMost Likely the most enduring and lasting impact that I’ve after chatting with and spending time with Ennahda officials and activists, as well as being acquainted with their politics, is that Tunisia’s “Islamists” are Merely not Islamists.
Even Though key figures and the founders of the Birthday Party Rached Ghannouchi and Abdelfattah Mourou have been unavailable for interview, I was once still in a position to speak to Ennahda MPs, senior Birthday Party officers and former ministers who’re deeply knowledgeable about the Birthday Celebration,
its ideology and methodology, and Possibly actually have a hand in forming Ennahda’s course and vision. Even If there are a lot of theological and philosophical considerations with terms such as “Islamism”, “political Islam” and even
“democratic Islam”, I’ll center of attention as a lot as possible on Ennahda’s model of politics.

With that in mind, something needs to be Said about Islam and democracy. I cited that a big selection of Ennahda’s supporters that I spoke to on the streets of Tunis, the capital, have been practising Muslims. They supported the Party as a result of they
wished to peer a extra Islamic Tunisia, impressed by way of their faith’s exhortations for Muslims to determine justice, morality, mercy and shura, or session. This Idea of shura constituting a roughly early Islamic concept of democracy
appeared oddly misplaced to me, and In All Probability demonstrates a lack of information about what democracy in reality manner. Most Tunisians I spoke to assumed that democracy handiest supposed elections and the suitable to choose one’s leaders within the spirit of shura.
They Did Not remember that it Additionally supposed that law, in essence, Also comes from the folks, whereas shura in Islam does no longer negate the Sharia, or Islamic law. For Instance, one cannot Simply organise a vote to legalise narcotics,
forbidden in an Islamic machine, although 95 per cent of the electorate authorized.

This figuring out of democracy and Islam permeates, to some extent, the senior ranks of the Birthday Celebration itself. Abdelkarim Harouni, former Ennahda transportation minister and long-time member, advised me that democracy is a more or less shura, and the belief is
that, because the Tunisian individuals are overwhelmingly Muslim, the constitution can be regarded as Islamic, thus “[Tunisia’s] laws are in accordance with the structure, which means that [they are] in line with Islam”.

Harouni introduced: “In our Islamic idea, we imagine that govt in Islam comes from shura, and shura comes from the individuals.” I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of Muslims would agree that their leaders will have to be chosen
by way of session of the individuals. However, a Muslim majority us of a just isn’t essentially an Islamic one. Take Egypt, For Example, which has in its structure that “the principles of Islamic Sharia are the principle Source of legislation”, but
your complete world has seen how Al-Sisi’s thugs slaughtered defenceless Egyptian Muslims en masse in Rabaa and other massacres, and even burnt mosques. Infrequently Islamic, whatever the structure says.

After I positioned this contradiction of the institution of an Islamic gadget inside a democratic republic sooner than Rafik Abdessalem, Ennahda’s former International minister, he told me: “We Don’t see that there’s a contradiction, as a result of Ennahda is
an Islamic, patriotic and democratic Motion…that believes in democracy.” He didn’t elaborate on what it intended to be both Islamic and democratic, But Ghannouchi himself has said that Ennahda does no longer imagine in autocratic Islam, as a substitute preferring a version similar to Turkey’s AK Party: “Why are we put in the same situation as a edition far from our idea, just like the Taliban
or the Saudi variation, whereas there are other a success Islamic models…that combine Islam and modernity?”

Consistent With Ennahda’s website online, that contains Arabic video lectures that describe their ride, Ennahda’s
transition from Islamism to democracy Came in the 1980s. Originally known as the Islamic Tendency Movement and with organisational roots beginning in the early Seventies, Ennahda’s political imaginative and prescient and action borrowed extensively from the ideas of the
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the most important workforce associated with political Islam on the earth. On The Other Hand, they discovered their very own ideas to be more in tune with secular authors, as the Islamist authors didn’t provide the answers they sought. Ennahda then started out
to develop a uniquely Tunisian strain of what I’ll describe as democratic conservativism which, within the context of the middle East, seeks to maintain links to Tunisia’s Arab-Islamic heritage. Relating To democratic events, this isn’t extraordinary,
even within the West. David Cameron, Britain’s Conservative prime minister, lately gave a Christmas speech extolling the virtues of england’s Christian values. Although he used to be mocked via the public who Mentioned “you ain’t no Christian, bruv”, it nonetheless does not cut back the fact that, to a point as a minimum, Cameron identifies with Britain’s Christian roots.

Indeed, Saida Ounissi, an Ennahda MP and probably the most youngest ladies in parliament, told me that Ennahda has a eu analogue in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union and that she does no longer believe that Ennahda is an
Islamist Birthday Party. This May strike many readers as unusual, in particular as mainstream media sources, both Western and Arab, describe Ennahda as certainly one of a series of “moderate Islamists” (any other poorly outlined and unquantified time period) that embody
Turkey’s AK Birthday Party, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Justice and Building Party of Morocco, and a rating or extra of others. However It’s exactly because of the media that Ounissi desires to distance the Birthday Party from Islamism: “[We are] being referred to as
Islamists with the aid of folks that set up ideas like…academics and journalists…I’m not going to struggle them on the [definition of the] label.” The relinquishing of the Islamist brand is one thing Ennahda has completed before, and that is
as a result of the violent movements of alternative teams like Daesh getting used to stigmatise any who identify with political Islam. Simply put, and as Ounissi explained to me, They Didn’t want to be placed in the same basket.

Ennahda’s politics because the overthrow of the ancien régime has unquestionably mirrored its democratic credentials. The Party has willingly shared executive, and even stepped faraway from it, and all within the identify of pragmatic power sharing
and gradual exchange. Certainly, a few Ennahda contributors expressed to me their want to peer the divisions in their rival,
Nidaa Tounes, cease.

Harouni informed me that Ennahda needs “robust…unified parties” in Tunisia, and that they need Nidaa Tounes’s rifts to heal because they need to “proceed with consensus…we don’t want to dominate executive”.
This appeared abnormal to me, as it could certainly be the dream of any political Birthday Party to observe the parliamentary presence of their competitors shrink. On The Other Hand, Perhaps It’s fair to say that Ennahda needs to steer clear of giving its more liberal opponents an excuse to
disrupt the progress they have made with the aid of creating hysteria that “the Islamists are taking on!” which may lead to a identical disaster as witnessed through Egypt. Additionally, the turbulence that any new system will indisputably undergo can’t be blamed
on them, But will likely be shared by all events.

This pragmatism has long gone so far as Ghannouchi attending Nidaa Tounes’s conferences and being warmly greeted via his competitors. It’s
worth making an allowance for that Nidaa Tounes is a party whose main raison d’être was once to collect as many liberal and left-leaning politicians together as conceivable in order to counter Ennahda. That being Mentioned, Ghannouchi gave a speech at their convention
and described the rival parties as being two wings belonging to the identical Tunisian hen. He Also Mentioned that the existence and cooperation of the 2 events created “balance in political existence”, and that he’s “pleased with a powerful and
united Nidaa Tounes”. The charming imagery and metaphors employed with the aid of Ghannouchi’s rhetoric is complicated, as Nidaa Tounes counts amongst its leadership many officials from the Ben Ali era of dictatorship who had imprisoned, tortured and killed
many Tunisians, including these of an Islamic bent. Ennahda ought to be careful, as there’s such a thing as moving on from the previous and making compromises with a view to be sure peace and progress, However that’s a long way removed from making baffling overtures
at going hand-in-glove with the remnants of a barbaric regime.

What Ennahda’s ultimate strategic targets by using taking part in the sort of conciliatory and gentle political recreation with its rivals stay to be considered. On The Other Hand, Thru its comfortable pragmatism and willingness to make concessions, Ennahda has managed to weather doubtlessly
severe political storms, such because the assassination of opposition flesh presser Chokri Belaid in February 2013. Belaid used to be a vocal critic of Ennahda, and his assassination could have easily been laid at their door, not as perpetrators, But as overseers of
an unstable post-dictatorship political setting. Sensing the precarious nature of the placement, Hamadi Jebali, then prime minister and previously an Ennahda member, reacted all of a sudden and defused any attempts at ousting them through dissolving his govt
which eventually resulted in a technocratic executive until new elections can be held. Through these strikes and others, Ennahda has shown itself to be a shrewd political operative who knows its limits smartly, and has considered what awaits those who reach too some distance,
too fast in neighbouring international locations.

Whatever Ennahda’s interparty politics and its reasons behind them, one factor is for certain and that’s that it’s a democratic Birthday Celebration committed to a secular Tunisia. The manufacturers of “Islamism” and “political Islam” which might be
so regularly bandied about the media in this day and age don’t follow to it. Ennahda draws upon the conservative Islamic heritage of Tunisia But does not are looking for to basically overturn the foundations of the republic. Any claims to the contrary, and that Ennahda
is in reality a closet Islamist Birthday Celebration, is theory at perfect and rampant defamation on the worst with no evidenced foundation in fact.

VIDEO: Former Tunisian International Minister speaks to MEMO about the Tunisian Revolution, 5 years on

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