Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat within Islamism

By Azzam S. Tamimi | Go to book overview

8
Ghannouchi's Detractors

Ghannouchi's ideas and his political stances have earned him many critics within and outside Islamic circles. The central theme in Ghannouchi's thought is that democracy is compatible with Islam, and that Muslims need to incorporate it into their political thought in order to institutionalize the concept of shura. His theme is based on the belief that civilizational products and achievements are universal. What may be called Greek, Islamic, or Western civilizations are only phases in a single human civilizational cycle, and thus the material and intellectual products of any particular phase are inheritable by subsequent phases. The belief itself is not new. It is prominent in Ibn Khaldoun's works and is said by its proponents to have its origin in the Islamic creed itself. Prophet Muhammad's mission, Muslims believe, was not aimed at repealing what had existed before him or abrogating the divine messages that preceded him, but at endorsing and complementing the goodness in all of them. It was in this spirit that ancient Muslim scholars translated and revived Greek philosophies and explored with enthusiasm the contributions of other cultures in all fields of knowledge.

The unwholesome relationship between Europe and the Muslim world since the beginning of the colonial era has been an impediment to what might otherwise have been a smooth exchange or peaceful interaction. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, intellectuals in the Muslim world have belonged to one of two strongly opposed groups, one infatuated with the European accomplishments, seeing nothing negative about them and believing Europe's route to progress to be the only option, and the other completely opposed to Europe, despising it, seeing nothing positive in it, and insisting that the route to progress is to be found nowhere other than in the Muslims' own heritage. Ghannouchi adopts a middle course, and as a result he is criticized by both radical secularists and radical Islamists. The critique of the radical Islamists, already dealt with in the preceding chapter, emanates primarily from groups such as Hizbut-Tahrir and the so-called jihadi and salafi trends. The Islamic critique of Rachid Ghannouchi was dealt with in the preceding chapter.

Ghannouchi's non-Islamist critics denounce him more for his political standing than for his thoughts, that is more as leader of Ennahda than as an Islamic thinker. His writings on democracy, public liberties, and human rights are cause for admiration rather

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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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