Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

Synopsis

Tamimi introduces the thought of Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, the renowned Islamist political activist who heads Tunisia's most important--albeit banned--Islamist political opposition to the current authoritarian regime of Zine Abidine Ben Ali. Ghannouchi is the leader of a school in modern Islamic political thought that advocates democracy and pluralism. While insisting on the compatibility of democracy with Islam, he believes that because of their secular foundations, contemporary forms of liberal democracy may not suit Muslim societies. Ghannouchi insists, however, that Islam is compatible with Western thought in matters concerning the system of government, human rights, and civil liberties.

Excerpt

It was by virtue of my involvement in Liberty for the Muslim World, a London-based organization concerned with monitoring human rights and democratization in Muslim countries that I developed an interest in pursuing academically the issue of Islam and democracy. Like many Muslims, I had been greatly disappointed with the forcible termination of the democratic process in Algeria and was dismayed by the attempt in some circles to justify the January 1992 military coup as having been inevitable in order to protect democracy from its enemies, the Islamists. I embarked on this work believing democracy to be compatible with Islam and hoping to establish this compatibility by means of academic research.

The idea was to refute the conclusions by some renowned Muslim political writers that Islam and democracy did not work. I also was motivated to pursue this line of research by the democratic experiment in Jordan, where, despite a fully-fledged Islamist participation in the political process, there was still a debate within Islamic movement circles as to whether democracy did, or did not, contradict Islam. This debate had actually been going on in much of the Arab world since the mid-1980s when the breeze of democratization seemed to blow across the region. the most significant development accompanying this trend had been the emergence within political Islam of groups willing to take part in the democratic process and pledging to respect the results of the elections and to play by the rules of the game.

Researching this topic necessitated an exploration of the concept of democracy in Western literature, followed by an investigation of the position of various Islamic schools of thought on the subject. It is no secret that contemporary Islamic revival movements generally dislike ideas that originate in the West, in reaction to Western colonization of much of the Muslim world and out of fear of loss of identity under the hammer of modernization. Writers affiliated with the Sayyid Qutb school, which had the greatest influence on Arab Islamic movements from the mid-1960s through the 1970s to the mid-1980s, had insisted that democracy was an ideology alien to Islam. By the mid1980s this school started losing ground to another school of thought that maintained that democracy was not an ideology but a set of tools and mechanisms designed to control government power, which they considered to be perfectly compatible with the Islamic . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.