Displaying items by tag: democracy

The recent arbitrary arrest of Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's Ennahda party, by President Kais Saied has brought Tunisia's political turmoil to the limelight.

The 81-year-old Ghannouchi reportedly was breaking his fast on the 27th day of Ramadan when nearly 100 policemen raided his house and took him into custody.

Later, he was ordered detained after eight hours of investigation following a trumped-up charge brought against him for incitement against state authorities.

This was a akin to imprisoning Ghannouchi, as part of a general move by President Kais Saied's ongoing crackdown on his political opponents.

Since his self-coup in July 2021 when the president dissolved the parliament in which Ghannouchi was the speaker, President Saied has dismantled every democratic institution in the country to consolidate power through a hyper-presidential system.

At the same time, he has jailed his critics that include politicians, former judges and government officials, business people, trade unionists, and journalists. Furthermore, the day after Ghannouchi's arrest, the Tunisian authorities also closed the Ennahda party headquarters.

Since the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisia has been seen as a beacon of hope for democratic change in the MENA region. As the largest party in the Tunisian parliament and a member of the ruling coalition, the Ennahda party under the leadership of Ghannouchi has been a key player in Tunisia's post-revolutionary politics and is largely credited for the country's democratic transition.

As a moderate Islamist party with a self-styled "Muslim Democrat" branding, Ennahda's success to maintain power has been a result of its willingness to work within the democratic system, respect the rule of law, and promote pluralism and tolerance through power-sharing agreement with other political players in Tunisia.

At the same time, despite being perceived as an Islamist movement, Ennahda has been more cautious in setting up its reform agenda. Thus, Ghannouchi has repeatedly affirmed that his party priority after gaining power is not to immediately 'Islamize' the country.

Instead, its main concerns are to uphold the country's democracy and the rule of law and boost its economic growth with a focus on the wellbeing of its people which is seen in line with the objectives of the syariah (maqasid al-shari'a).

Therefore, whereby its Egyptian counterpart, the Muslim Brotherhood under Mohamed Morsi failed to maintain power and was unfortunately overthrown in a military coup, Ennahda has continued to survive and enjoyed growing support from a broad cross-section of Tunisian society helping the country's stability and progress.

However, the rise of President Saied has undone much of the democratic development in Tunisia. Since taking office in 2019, he has steadily increased his power, using the pretext of the Covid-19 pandemic to bypass parliament and take unilateral decisions.

He has undermined the independence of the judiciary, dismissed the prime minister and other senior officials, and imposed curfews and restrictions on civil society organizations and the media.

His efforts to govern without a functioning parliament and to rule by decree during the July 2021 self-coup have faced stiff opposition from Ennahda and other parties, who have accused him of authoritarianism.

Thus, the recent arrest of Ghannouchi and the broader crackdown on the opposition movement are clear examples of the president's authoritarian tactics. The repercussions of President Saied's crackdown on the Tunisian Muslim democrat could be far-reaching.

First and foremost, Tunisia has been seen as the sole successful model for democratic transition in the Arab and Muslim world and it has become evident how the proponent of the Islamist movement may peacefully partake and even flourish in this democratic endeavour.

Thus, if President Saied succeeds in crushing the opposition, it will set back all of the democratic efforts and bring

back Tunisia to the old way of authoritarianism which is so hard to turn back.

But, a more alarming backlash of this lies in the discrediting of all of the peaceful democratic efforts made by moderate Islamists such as Ennahda.

This could have a knock-on effect, leading to disillusionment among moderate Islamists and pushing them towards hard-line and extremist groups. This is a worry which could ultimately destabilize the region and undermine efforts towards peace and stability.

Hence, it is imperative that the international community speaks out against President Saied's actions and call for the immediate release of Ghannouchi and other political prisoners.

Tunisia's democratic progress must not be undone, and its people must be allowed to continue on their path towards a more open and tolerant society.

The writer is a research fellow at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia. He can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

15 November 2022 (Tuesday)
10:30am - 12:30pm (Malaysian Standard Time GMT +8)
Published in Past Events
Wednesday, 06 March 2019 17:07

Western 'democratic' hypocrisy

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad made an important point recently with regard to democracy promotion in the Middle East. He did not mince his words, saying that democracy in the Middle East cannot be promoted over the dead bodies of Yemenis, Syrians and Iraqis.

Most citizens in the developing world are aware that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, liberal democracy and market capitalism are being actively promoted by the West to all corners of the globe as a package to utopia.

What is hypocritical about democracy promotion by the West is that their policymakers find it convenient to ignore that it took more than a century for democracy to consolidate there. What is more, many Western countries still fail to protect the rights of minorities in their society. Even though the patron saint of democracy in the West, the late Harvard professor, Samuel P. Huntington, had cautioned that democratic consolidation required cultural requisites, Western leaders still insist on exporting democracy to fragmented societies.

There is no doubt that constitutional government with the maximum participation of as many citizens as possible is the political objective at which we ought to aim, but the world today needs such drastic political and social changes urgently.

The discussion of democracy promotion by the West must include debates on Islamophobia and the incompatibility of Islam and democracy. A coterie of experts on Islam has been assembled by the West and their main task, it seems, is to assert that “traditional” Islam is incompatible with democracy. This is a revival of the orientalist discourse, where the othering of the political system in Islamic and non-white societies is taken as an accurate representation of what is known as oriental despotism.

What is less known is that discussion on Islamophobia is premised upon epistemic racism and its derivative Eurocentric fundamentalism. Western social theories’ discussions on human rights and democracy seem to suggest that non-Western traditions have nothing of value to the human rights and democratic discourses.

Non-Western epistemologies that define human rights and dignity in different terms than the West are considered inferior and are excluded from global conversations about these questions. If Islamic philosophy and thought are portrayed as inferior by Eurocentric thinkers and classical social theory, then the logical consequence is that they have nothing to contribute to democracy and human rights and should be not only excluded from global conversation, but repressed as well.

The underlying Western-centric view is that Muslims can be part of the discussion as long as they stop thinking as Muslims and take the hegemonic Eurocentric liberal definition of democracy and human rights. Any Muslim who attempts to address these questions from within the Islamic tradition attracts suspicions of fundamentalism.

Western social sciences propose that Muslims are irrational and fatalistic and therefore, no knowledge can come from them. What is the epistemology that underlies the latter proposition? The orientalists’ epistemic Islamophobia often repeats the German sociologist Max Weber verdict on Islam in that it is only Christian tradition that gives rise to economic rationalism and thus, to Western modern capitalism. Islam cannot compare to the superiority of Western values in that it lacks individuality, rationality and science.

Rational science and its derivative rational technology are, according to Weber, unknown to oriental civilisations. These statements are problematic because historical facts have shown the influence of scientific development in the Islamic world.

Rationality was a central tenet of Islamic civilisation. While Europe was in obscurantist feudal superstition during the Middle Ages, the school of Baghdad was the world centre of intellectual and scientific productivity and creativity. Weber’s and the orientalist’s view of Islam reproduce Islamophobia, where Muslims are seen as incapable of producing science and of having rationality.

The incompatibility of Islam and democracy has, at its foundation, the epistemic inferiorisation of the Muslim world views. Today an artillery of experts in the West talks with authority on Islam with no knowledge of the Islamic tradition. The lies repeated over and over again in Western press end up like in Goebbels’ Nazi theory of propaganda, being believed as truth. The circulation of these stereotypes contributes to the portrayal of Muslims as inferior, violent creatures, thus its association with terrorism.

Dr Azeem Fazwan Ahmad Farouk is the director of the Centre for Policy Research and International Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia

Published in: The New Straits Times, Sunday 3 March 2019

Source: https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2019/03/465409/western-democratic-hypocrisy

Tagged under
Thursday, 08 January 2015 11:00

Arab Spring, IS and democracy

The emergence of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS - at the tail end of Arab Spring confirmed once again that the import of Western democracy to the Middle Eastern and North Africa (MENA) is not a cure to the deeply-rooted socio-political problems of that region. Numerous Muslim thought leaders and governments have denounced the ISIS brutalities as being anti-Islamic and antithetical to the core principles of the religion. Yet, the self-styled leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, claims global authority of the Muslim ummah in the manner of the caliphs of old...................Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)



Published in Media Articles
Monday, 15 July 2013 16:00

Democracy and Islam


MUSLIM scholars have differed in their assessment of democracy and constitutionalism from the viewpoint of Islamic principles. The view has gained ground, however, that a democratic system of rule is on the whole acceptable to Islam. This is because democracy is about fundamental rights and liberties, the rule of law, a representative and participatory government, separation of powers, and equality before the law............ Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)


Published in Media Articles
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Monday, 28 January 2013 17:29

Six Israeli security chiefs stun world

Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel's secretive internal security service, have spoken out as a group for the first time and are making stunning revelations. The men who were responsible for keeping Israel safe from terrorists now say they are afraid for Israel's future as a democratic and Jewish state............. Download the full article in pdf attachment (below)