How do Islamists see the concept of politics and change?

In the previous two articles of the “Islamists and the Tunisian Lesson” series, we discussed – after the coup in Tunisia – two main ideas: the end of Islamic exceptionalism and the four problems of Islamists in power. In this final part of the series we look at how Islamists view the concept of politics and change in light of what happened in Egypt and Tunisia.

First: Islamists and the concept of politics

In the relationship of Islamists to politics there are two issues. The first: Were the Islamists able to redefine politics from the perspective of their intellectual and moral reference, or did contemporary politics swallow them up and reformulate them in its image and likeness? Here the question revolves around the relationship of Islamism as ideals, ideas and values ​​to the political field, and is related to this second point that is raised about the nature of the ongoing conflict – regionally and internationally – On the spirit of Islam and its representative or voice in the contemporary world.

Reducing Islam to politics and politics only, power and authority only, and state and state only, is the most important underlying and motivating reason for the issue of violence or change by force that one of the Islamic movements has adopted, especially if the conflict around it turns from a political struggle to a struggle between “right and wrong,” and the truth, of course. Here it is embodied by the Islamic party, while falsehood is the political authority, which deprived the Islamic movement of the magic wand capable – as some imagine – to solve all the problems of reality.

The moment of the modern entry of Islamists into the political arena since the mid-eighties of the last twentieth century is an important detail in the relationship of Islamists to politics. I wrote early in the late eighties about the impact of the inflation of the political component in the competitive sense of the conflict on the Islamic idea itself and on the Islamists themselves, and what I said at the time and fit to evoke it now “after If the political practice by the Islamic movements was a transition by da’wah – which is absolute on the one hand that it calls for the basic principles and supreme values ​​of Islam – to the official sphere, then the relative factor, which here is politics, has been implemented, on the one hand, it is jurisprudence and multiple opinions and different points of view in the absolute, After the goal was to “religious politics” – that is, to subject it to the basic principles and supreme values ​​of Islam and to achieve or build a religious legal ground for political practice – religion was “politicised”, not in the sense of looking at politics as part of the Islamic religious perception, but in terms of reinterpreting religion So that the political part or the political part in it would be enlarged over the rest of the components of the Islamic building, and this is, by the way, an existing problem in contemporary Islamic thought, and it became clear in the debate that took place between the two parties. From Abu Al-Ala Al-Mawdudi and Abu Al-Hassan Al-Nadawi on the political interpretation and the true interpretation of Islam, in addition to the dialogue between the thought of the Brotherhood and the thought of Sayyid Qutb as it appeared in the book “Preachers not Judges”.

Politics turned – within the framework of practice by the followers of the Islamic movement that entered the arena of political action – into an “absolute interpretation” or a total truth that reinterprets or dismantles religion by giving some of its parts and components a size greater than their natural size in Islamic perception and vision, and this has created a special mind that sees Everything is from a political perspective, and after political practice was a temporary reality linked to certain conditions and circumstances, it turned into an absolute permanent reality. This “absolute” truth has extended to dismantling and rebuilding the existing reality. The political discourse does not see the societal crisis that we suffer from, but rather wants to jump to power, that magic wand capable of solving all the dilemmas and problems of reality; Hence, the Islamic project – as a comprehensive project aimed at reforming the state of the nation – is reduced to a political aspect centered around power; To reach it, as in the moderate proposition, or a dress on it, as in the violent proposition, and then the first task of “establishing religion” becomes the establishment of the ruling political authority in the name of Islam, so that the “complete legal system” can be implemented, instead of establishing it in the souls and hearts and the reality of the nation. The pension before his residence in the reality of political institutions.

The talk of the eighties that extended to the nineties also continues by saying, “Reducing Islam to politics and politics only, authority and authority only, and state and state only, is the most important underlying and motivating causes for the issue of violence or change by force adopted by a faction of the Islamic movement, especially if the conflict around it turns into a political one. To a conflict between “right and wrong”, of course right here is what is embodied by the Islamic party, while wrong is the political authority that deprived the Islamic movement of the magic wand capable – as some imagine – to solve all the problems of reality, as happened in the Algerian experience, or which failed The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt came to power under its shadow. The violence that Egypt witnessed in the 1990s was in large part a reaction – as you can see in the literature of the Jihad and the Islamic Group in Egypt – to the failure of the Brotherhood movement to establish the Islamic state. This is what I started writing in the late 1980s and continued over the next decade.

in a important study The researchers, Dove Dale and Sarah Foer, discussed in detail the ideological predicament in relation to the reality of 4 forms of Islamic ideology in the region. We are concerned with what they refer to as the historical paradox facing Islamic parties: “The more these organizations abandon their Islamic identity and principles, the greater their success in occupying positions on the political map of their countries, while the price they paid is to protect these organizations from government persecution; but it also cost them public support. Increasing segments of the population have either become associated with more extremist movements such as ISIS (Islamic State Organization) or have found it difficult to refer to what remains of the “original Islamism of these parties”, but the Tunisian lesson invites us to rethink this historical predicament, as presented by the two researchers. And here we can refer to an assumption worth following: Did the Arab masses, in the first wave of the Arab Spring, choose Islamists as an alternative to the Arab regimes that they protested against, did they imagine – even partially – that they could solve their life and livelihood problems based on a cultural and value ground that stems from Islamism and crosses But she was severely disappointed, as her living problems were not resolved, and the Islamists, like other politicians, acted on their own, with excessive opportunism, pragmatism, and alliances that lacked idealism and dishonesty. Protective and reneging on election promises and propaganda, and from here it is possible to understand the severity of the reaction that hit the masses towards the Islamists, and it seemed apparent with Ennahda.

The struggle over who represents moderate Islam

The general feature of this conflict led by regional powers in the Arab region and in the world; It revolves around an Islam devoid of democracy, integrated in the market, that is, with a neoliberal character, and mixed with violence because it combines soft power with hard, although it presents itself to the world as open and tolerant, and plays a role in combating violent extremism, but at the same time it does not look at the condition of its people.

This conflict is more complex, not only for the arrival of new players into the arena, but also because it involves competition within each faction; The entry and conflict between the new players—the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Indonesia—has further blurred the lines between purely religious and cultural soft power, nationalism, and the struggle within Islamic societies over values, including freedoms, rights, and preferred political systems; It is a religion not against rulers and their social class alliances and international networks of privilege.

6 main features of this Islam presented by the regional powers, even if the conflict between them prevails:

  1. violentBecause it pairs soft power with hard power, whether this power is exercised directly, such as Turkey in northern Syria and Iraq, or through the use of proxies, as Iran does in Yemen and other Arab countries, or the Emirates in Yemen and Libya.
  2. devoid of democracyWith a growing tendency to confiscate freedoms in the internal systems of Islamic countries, even the only experience of Turkey that was characterized by a democratic tendency witnessed a continuous decline in this tendency since 2012 and increased with the coup attempt 2016. The Saudi and Emirati model supports a model that urges absolute obedience to the rulers regardless of their practices .
  3. A neoliberal edition devoid of any social dimensionThe economic model adopted by all of these countries is based on integration into the global market with the adoption of neoliberal policies that do not address the disparities in wealth, income and opportunities among citizens.
  4. The relationship between state and religionThe competition implicitly involves a broader debate across the Islamic world that touches on the heart of the relationship between state and religion, and this discussion focuses on the role that the state, if any, should play in implementing religious morals and the place of religion in education, judicial systems, and politics. Competing nations, the lines between state and religion are becoming more blurred than ever, especially in the most authoritarian countries.
  5. Eye on the world and disregard for the peopleThe most important thing is that the image of the regimes be tolerant and peaceful, and in which there is acceptance of the religious other and the enemy (normalization with the Zionist entity), even if he did not accept the difference with him in the national and regional framework. This deepens the participation of all those regimes in the war on terrorism – whose definition differs from one country to another – but it serves as a door to international legitimacy and an entrance to eliminating the opposition.
  6. Heavy recruitment of religious institutions and their scholarsIn what undermines its independence and casts a shadow on the legitimacy and credibility of the rulers; The price paid for government sponsorship is generally high for these scholars; Because they have to publicly support or remain silent about tyranny at home and the relationship of these regimes to external hegemony, while talking about democracy, pluralism, and minority rights to a Western audience.

The question remains open. Can the “spirit of Islam” be a component of the liberation of the peoples of the region and a motive for their various struggles and protests, which have taken on the nature of waves that rise at times and fade at others?

Protests in which protesters express anger at police brutality, corruption, crony capitalism, the arrogance of those in power, the manipulation of politics, the under-representation of political institutions, their collective marginalization, and exacerbating inequalities in wealth, income, and opportunity. The list is long, but what unites them is the demand for dignity, justice and freedom. The protest movements in the region and the world – over the past two decades – are in essence demands that we be governed by a better normative authority that is more promising with dignity, justice and human liberation.

Can the spirit of Islam be part of this movement that will continue and escalate as long as its causes exist? Or was it written that he was kidnapped by official and unofficial forces, international, regional and national seeking to achieve hegemony without regard for humans and ordinary citizens?

The question becomes legitimate if Islamists remain in the political scene. To whom did you make concessions, and with whom did you build alliances? And most importantly, on what bases can we ensure the realization of the aspirations of the peoples of the region?

Second: Islamists and the question of change

The question of change does not concern Islamists alone; Rather, it has been on display for a decade, and has not yet been answered. The grievances andSocial and Non-Social Contracts – which stirred the Arab uprisings at the beginning and end of the last decade – is still present, and the formulas that have arisen or tried to take root over the last decade have not been able to solve the problem until now. People want The past decade opened with uprisings that included a number of Arab countries and concluded with protests that included other countries. Some researchers even believe that the year 2011 marked the beginning of a global era of challenge and opposition, with the Arab uprisings being the most dramatic focus. Here the question does not become; Whether or not there will be another wave of protest, but the question is when will it happen? And what is its nature? And what are its demands?

The Egyptian and Tunisian experience shows us one of the Islamists’ predicaments in governance. The Islamic project in one of its dimensions – as they presented it – is a project to reshape the economic and political elites of the Arab state in a way that allows for penetrations from the popular classes that have been excluded and restricted energies, but they were unable to mobilize in a revolutionary confrontation against the alliance of the tops of the bureaucracy, big capital, and deep state institutions with their networks of privileges. international and regional.

The Tunisian Ennahda movement bet – as did the Muslim Brotherhood – on building alliances with the forces and institutions of the old regime, or at best understandings with it. However, this formula has proven to be a failure in both cases. The question becomes legitimate if the Islamists persist in the political scene; To whom did you make concessions, and with whom did you build alliances? And most importantly, on what bases can we ensure the realization of the aspirations of the peoples of the region?

In the first wave of reaction to what happened in Egypt in 2013, Syria and Iraq; We have seen ISIS as the most crystallized response to managing brutality, if not the only one, and it has proven to be a failure. The question remains. What is the form of the response that will prevail in the future to Tunisia’s question?

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