Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

By Azzam S. Tamimi | Go to book overview

4
Secularism

Adherence to democracy, and what it entails of pluralism and the alternation of power through the ballot box, has been Ghannouchi's slogan since he set up Harakat al-Ittijah al-Islami (Islamic Tendency Movement, the MTI), in 1981. 1 By the time this explicitly Islamic platform was replaced—in the hope of qualifying for registering as a political party—by Ennahda in 1988, he was glad to see that peaceful means of change through democracy were becoming acceptable to an increasing number of Islamic movements elsewhere in the Arab region.

In spite of the enormity of the international campaign against what is called fundamentalism or political Islam, which some Jewish, Arab, and Western circles have—for different ends—nominated as the new threat following the collapse of communism, and in spite of the efforts made to associate Islam with terrorism and with detestation of civil rights, democracy, and the West, a tendency within the Islamic current, which an observer's eye cannot miss, and which today attracts the largest section of the Islamic current, is persistently searching for opportunities to work within the framework of law, through society's formal institutions such as parties, associations, and trade syndicates, employing the tools of democratic action through debate, negotiation, election, and accepting the verdict of the ballot box, freedom of expression, and the alternation of power. 2

He was by then confident that whenever such opportunities of participation in political action were made available to the Islamic current (another way of describing Islamic movements), the Islamic current proved a high degree of respectability, moderation, and responsibility. 3 Ghannouchi cites as examples of ongoing processes in which Islamic movements have taken part those of Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Morocco. 4 He cites as examples of experiments aborted so far those of Iraq, Sudan, Tunisia, and Algeria. 5 The abortion of some of these experiments, especially in his own country in 1989 and in neighboring Algeria in 1992, has not eroded his optimism that one day local, regional, and global changes will take place in favor of democracy. It is only a matter of time for him. Authoritarian regimes, he stresses, have no future. “They are extremely brittle and will eventually decompose. ” 6 In addition to the political and

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Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Religion and Global Politics *
  • Title Page *
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Contents *
  • Rachid Ghannouchi *
  • 1 - From Qabis to Paris 3
  • 2 - The Journey to Democracy 30
  • 3 - The Question of Democracy 63
  • 4 - Secularism 105
  • 5 - Civil Society 125
  • 6 - The Territorial State and the New World Order 154
  • 7 - Islamist Obstacles to Democracy 182
  • 8 - Ghannouchi's Detractors 200
  • Conclusion 215
  • Notes 221
  • Bibliography 247
  • Index 259
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