Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

By Azzam S. Tamimi | Go to book overview

7
Islamist Obstacles to Democracy

The obstacles to the progress of democracy are not confined to the factors outlined in the preceding chapters, namely the project of secularization and modernization, the nationstate and the new world order. An impediment, though in Ghannouchi's assessment less serious than those dealt with hitherto, exists within the realm of Islamic political thinking and activism. It is the opposition, or hostility, to democracy by some Islamic quarters, within factions as well as within academia. The grounds for hostility range from considering democracy antithetical to Islam to considering it a Western design against it. The dispute within Islamic circles over democracy has had serious ramifications. Inter-Islamic factional conflict has been attributed, in many cases, to the disagreement on the stance toward democracy, or more generally toward the question of governance. Ghannouchi considers the rejectionist attitude toward democracy an obstacle that undermines the endeavor of mainstream Islamic movements, such as Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood, to bring about peaceful political reform in the Arab region. This chapter will review the opinions of some of the opponents of democracy and then discuss Ghannouchi's response to them.


Rejectionist Theses

Ayman Dhawahiri, an ideologue of the Egyptian Jihad faction, believes democracy to be shirk-u-billah (assigning partners with God). 1 He understands tawhid (monotheism) to entail the belief that legislation is the sole prerogative of God whereas democracy, as he understands it, is the rule of the people for the people. Whereas in democracy the legislator is the people, in tawhid God is the legislator. Hence, democracy is shirk (idolatry) because it usurps the right to legislation from the Almighty and puts it in the hands of the people. 2 Alleging to base his conclusions on the writings of Mawdudi and Qutb, Dhawahiri denounces democracy as a new “religion” that deifies humans by awarding them the right to legislate without being bound by a superior divine authority. His entire discourse is based on the argument that since democracy is the recognition of the sovereignty of the people, it would have to mean the denial of God's sovereignty. Conse

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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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