CSID Newsletter
June 22, 2016
In This Issue
CSID 17th Annual Conference

Democratization, Authoritarianism, and Radicalization - Exploring the Connections 
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Renaissance Hotel  
999 9th Street, NW 
Washington DC 20001

Click Here to View Conference Report with links to videos of the panels.

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Ghannouchi, like Mandela, risks all for reconciliation and democracy

By David Hearst | Middle East Eye

Rached Ghannouchi is trying to force fundamental change in post-revolutionary Tunisian politics to protect it from surrounding chaos.


The Emiratis, sources within Nidaa Tounes told Middle East Eye, offered  to give Tunisia between $5bn-$10bn if Essebsi ditched his power-sharing agreement with Ennahda. He refused.

Ghannouchi said of him: "I have enough confidence in our president. I have confidence in his patriotism and he is elected by the Tunisian people. His authority does not depend on the support of a foreign power."

Ghannouchi's emphasis on reconciliation comes straight out of Nelson Mandela's playbook in South Africa. But the Tunisian leader grounds his calculations in hard politics, too, which is why he believes he can keep Essebsi on the straight and narrow.

For the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, he had this warning: "We advise all Islamists in the region to be more open and to work with others and to look for a consensus with others, because without national unity, without national resistance against dictatorship, freedom cannot be achieved. There needs to be a genuine reconciliation between Islamists and secularists, between Muslim and non-Muslim. Dictatorship feeds off confrontation between all parties."
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In Tunisia, a move toward 'Muslim democracy'

By Tom Heneghan and Celeste Kennel-Shank | The Christian Century

Tunisia's Ennahda movement, the most successful Islamist party to emerge from the Arab Spring revolts early in this decade, has left political Islam and declared that its members will operate in the country as " Muslim democrats."

A recent party congress in HamĀ­mamet voted almost unanimously to drop Ennahda's traditional religious work and participate in Tunisian politics as a regular political party.

Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, spent time with Ghannouchi while he was in exile. He was not surprised that Ghannouchi, when he returned to Tunisia, learned from what happened in Turkey and Egypt.

"The Islamist groups in Tunisia have shown that they can think differently," Moosa said. "There has been a theological tradition in North Africa, maslaha, to give priority of what is in the best interest of the community and the public."

This allows Ennahda some flexibility in its leadership, Moosa said.

"In Tunisia you have Shari'a meeting John Dewey," he said, referring to the U.S. social reformer, who was a proponent of pragmatism. "It's a different kind of leadership."

"We are leaving political Islam to enter into Muslim democracy," GhanĀ­nouchi told Le Monde, avoiding the word
secular. "Ennahda is a democratic and civil political party based on Muslim and modern civilizational values." -Religion News Service; the Christian Century

By Ivesa Lubben | Qantara.de  

The latest Ennahda party conference, held in the Tunisian town of Hammamet, revealed in both its symbolism and the new parlance used by the party a renunciation of political Islam in favour of Muslim democracy.

At the opening event at the Olympic Hall in Rades, broadcast live on Tunisian television, the national anthem was sung and an oversized Tunisian flag symbolically unfurled, Ennahda thus presenting itself to the more than 10,000 followers and guests attending as a national force in the Maghreb country.

"Tunisia is more important than Ennahda," declared party leader Rachid Ghannouchi in his opening speech, honoring the martyrs in the police and armed forces who had lost their lives in the fight against terrorism and also paying tribute to the martyrs of the revolution and the struggle against the dictatorship of Ben Ali.

The ability to overcome such conflicts can be attributed to the influence of Rachid al-Ghannouchi as an integration figure, but also to the party's Islamic identity as a common reference point. Whether Ennahda will in future still be able to integrate the different currents that came to the fore at the conference, or whether it will end up splitting up into separate organisations - like many other Tunisian parties before it - remains to be seen.

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From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy


Tunisia's Ennahda Changes Course

| Foreign Affairs

Ennahda's defeat at the polls in 2014 prompted what turned out to be nearly two years of internal discussion regarding the future direction of the party. The repeated postponement of the party congress reportedly stemmed from the leadership's difficulties in convincing the base that Ennahda should be a political party and leave overtly religious activities to a separate, if related, body. In the end, although delegates to the Congress rejected the term fasl (separation), they approved a takhassus (specialization) between the movement's religious and political activities.

Thus, for example, Ennahda leaders can no longer preach in mosques or hold leadership positions in religious associations. As Ghannouchi explained in Le Monde, -   "we need to specify the difference between political and religious activity. The arena of political activity is not within the mosque."

As if to demonstrate what he meant, he dedicated the second half of his speech at the congress to outlining a series of reforms aimed at combating corruption, spurring economic growth, reducing unemployment, and improving conditions for the country's youth-all goals that Tunisians have consistently ranked as the nation's highest priorities. With local elections scheduled for March 2017 and parliamentary elections to follow in 2019, Ennahda knows it needs to expand its base of support if it is to rebound from the 2014 defeat. Whatever else may be driving the movement's current transformation, focusing on the "daily problems" of the electorate makes good political sense.

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How big were the changes Tunisia's Ennahda party just made at its national congress?

  By Monica Marks | The Washington Post

In a move widely reported as a landmark separation of mosque and state, Ennahda announced it was separating politics from preaching. It also unveiled plans to rebrand and reboot the party, broadening membership to recruit new voices and perspectives. Western coverage characterized the congress as abruptly separating religion and politics. Inside Ennahda, though, these changes are understood as formalizing long-brewing trends within the party - introducing revisions that tweak, but do not transformatively sever, its relationship to religion.

To implement this new vision, Ennahda decided to no longer allow its party leaders to simultaneously hold leadership positions in civil society organizations, including religious associations. Leaders are also now prohibited from preaching in mosques, even informally or occasionally. This means Ennahda leaders with a well-known penchant for preaching - such as Sheiks Sadok Chorou and Habib Ellouze, both reelected to the Shura Council - must either stop proselytizing or give up their elective positions.

Leaders and base-level members of Ennahda at the congress rejected the word fasl (separation) to describe the party's updated relationship between religion and politics.

"It's not a separation, it's a takhassus (specialization)," Shura Council member and Ennahda member of parliament Farida Laabidi said, echoing other nahdaouis (Ennahda members). "Our references will remain Islamic, but it's not logical for us to try to do everything from tarbiya
(religious education) to making economic policy."

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Again, Tunisians show the way

Tunisia was the pioneer in the Arab Spring which was a moment of hope for the region's people, leading to the overthrow of Egypt's long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, followed by the one-year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi. That moment of hope passed quickly, with the Brotherhood dethroned by the military with popular backing and Egypt and the rest of the Arab world reverted to the familiar dictatorial pattern.

Now that the world is more aware of the dangers represented by the spread of extreme forms of Islam, it's surprising that the Tunisian lead hasn't provoked greater discussion and comment. True, the Muslim Brotherhood credo, initiated nearly 90 years ago, formed the basis of Muslim participation and interactions in politics. But the Tunisian initiative deserves notice in exploring a way to live harmoniously in a changing world.

Although Tunisians have made a small beginning, intellectuals of the Muslim world, tormented as it is, need to return to basics in configuring a way out of their dilemmas. Egypt, as the major Arab country and renowned seat of Muslim learning, is too preoccupied with its own political problems to give the lead in modernizing Islam.
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By Jamal Khashoggi | The Peninsula

With regard to the recent announcement made by the Tunisian En-Nahda Movement underlining its commitment to democracy, leaving aside political Islam, and a decision to separate Dawah (preaching of Islam) from politics, should we say thanks to its leader Rachid Al Ghannouchi, or to the natural development of the movement for this achievement?

For many long years Islamists have seen the situations of their countries continuously deteriorating while other parts of the world were witnessing advancement and rapidly development.

The common factor amongst countries enjoying stability and development, including Europe, Japan, Korea and India was the democratic regime. So it is not fair to say democracy is just a Western formula and then refuse it.  

Of course, the leadership has a role, so Ghannouchi - an Islamic 'think-tank' who has been known a long time for his modern ideology compared to others, should be recognized for his important part.  Erdogan in Turkey and Bin Kiran in Morocco were both known as popular public leaders, so they successfully led their parties to this big leap.
Tackling the stalemate of power exchange is half the battle for all people, not only for the Islamic movement. This is what Ghannouchi did and what made democracy stable in his country.

Thus Al Ghannouchi and his "Islamic Democratic" party are ready to jump to power in the forthcoming election.
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