Post-Islamism in Tunisia and Egypt: Contradictory Trajectories
an endeavor to fuse religiosity and rights, faith and freedom, Islam and liberty. It is an attempt to turn the underlying principles of Islamism on their head by emphasizing rights instead of duties, plurality in place of a singular authoritative voice, historicity rather than fixed scriptures, and the future instead of the past. It wants to marry Islam with individual choice and freedom (albeit at varying degrees), with democracy and modernity, to achieve what some have termed an alter modernity. Post-Islamism is expressed in acknowledging secular exigencies, in freedom from rigidity, in breaking down the monopoly of religious truth. I concluded that whereas Islamism is defined by the fusion of religion and responsibility, post-Islamism emphasizes religiosity and rights. Yet, while it favors a civil and nonreligious state, it accords an active role for religion in the public sphere.
2. A Post-Islamist Turn
4. Background and Context
4.1. Historicizing Ennahda in Tunisia
were influenced by thinkers in Egypt and Syria linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the movement’s Egyptian founder, Hasan al-Banna, and Mustafa al-Sibai, the leader of its Syrian branch. But as the MTI developed, they increasingly drew inspiration from thinkers in the Maghreb region, such as the Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi and Al Zitouna University’s own Mohamed Tahar Ben Achour, one of the fathers of the rationalistic approach to Quarnic exegesis, which emphasizes the importance of maqasid al-sharia: the objectives, or ends, of Islamic law.
4.2. Historicizing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt
5. The Post-Islamist Evolution: Similarities and Differences
5.1. Compromise, Consensus, Reconciliation, and Coalition-Making
5.2. The Separation of Religious and Political Activities
- As parties gain more political maturity, specialization (التخصص) leads to professionalization inside the party. As Larbi Sadiki argues, “by defending a new identity that separates the religious and the political, Ennahda has turned an important learning curve on the way to a fully-fledged civic political party. The amendments that have all passed with absolute majority—800-plus votes by the conferences—all prove that several months of internal debates have come to full fruition for the reformists within the party” (Sadiki 2016, p. 8). This not only reinforced and strengthened the practice of democracy inside the party itself, but also sent a message to all Tunisians, regardless of their background, that the party had opened up to a new blood and was reaching out to new electoral bases. Tunisian researcher Hamza Meddeb points out that “by strategically adopting specialization, Ennahda also targeted another reluctant audience: Tunisia’s international partners” (Meddeb 2019, p. 9). This reflects Ennahda’s commitment to democratic politics/governance. In May 2018, the Ennahda party nominated Simon Salama, the 54-year-old Tunisian Jew, as its candidate for the municipal elections in the coastal city of Monastir. This was a powerful symbolic message from an Islamic party to the Jewish component of Tunisia. Ironically, secular parties rushed to accuse Ennahda of exploiting the Jews in its political machine. Although this may be considered an act of propaganda, it remains a smart move that pulled the rug from under the legs of the liberal/secular parties who champion religious pluralism (Bar’el 2018).
- The transition from Islamism to Muslim democracy is not merely a tactical maneuver, as many Ennahda detractors claim, but constitutes a profound and ongoing intellectual adaptation. On the one hand, it represents an attempt to rethink the role of Islam in politics as well as what it means to be an Islamic party that competes within a secular democratic framework. In this regard, Hannah Pfeifer asserts that “Ennahda’s inclusion into Tunisian political processes exposed it to secularism’s normative power to which it reacted, among others, by adapting its discourse on religion, politics, and the state” (2019, p. 479). Practically, Islam was neither purged from the political power nor the public sphere, but rather embedded in the state apparatus (Cesari 2014, p. 275). On the other hand, it helps Ennahda to distance itself from other violent forms of Islamism that have bad reputations in the West, such as ISIS (Hearst and Obrone 2016). Domestically, this highly crucial transition turned out to be costly for the party, as it lost sympathizers and members “who were disappointed by the party’s ever less Islamic trajectory and oriented themselves toward other options, i.e., Salafist groups” (Pfeifer 2019, p. 494).
- Ennahda’s commitment to a civil state (الدولة المدنية) challenges traditional Islamist plans to apply shariah (Islamic legal system) and highlights Ennahda’s normalization with the deep state. Put differently, it became integrated into the very same state against which it spent years fighting (from the Habib Bourguiba era to Ben Ali). As a result, Islamism ceases to be the reference that guides political goals in the quest for power, but rather a synonym of the “practice of making moral judgments about political action” (Thompson 2018).
5.3. Gender and Minority Rights
The state is committed to taking all constitutional and executive measures to ensure equality of women with men in all walks of political, cultural, economic, and social life, without violation of the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. The state will provide all necessary services for mothers and children for free, and will ensure the protection of women, along with social, economic and medical care and the right to inheritance, and will ensure a balance between the woman’s family responsibilities and work in society.31
- I am secular: That is, for me, religion is for God and the nation is for all. I am
- secular: that is, for me, there is no religion in politics and no politics in religion.
- I am secular: that is, your name, your title, your religion, your color, your sex
- are not important for me: all of us are Egyptian and equal before the law.44
Data Availability Statement
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Ben Lazreg, H. Post-Islamism in Tunisia and Egypt: Contradictory Trajectories. Religions 2021, 12, 408. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060408
Ben Lazreg H. Post-Islamism in Tunisia and Egypt: Contradictory Trajectories. Religions. 2021; 12(6):408. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060408Chicago/Turabian Style
Ben Lazreg, Houssem. 2021. "Post-Islamism in Tunisia and Egypt: Contradictory Trajectories" Religions 12, no. 6: 408. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060408