Tunisia is certainly going through a serious turning point that represents the crux of the dispute between the Islamic movement, on one hand, and the civil parties, on the other hand.
This dispute is primarily political, aimed at determining which party will rule the country, and has nothing to do with Islam. Therefore, the Islamic movement should have been aware of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group’s failure in Egypt. Its supporters resorted to the army to protect them from the anarchy which was an inevitable outcome of the weakness of their cadres and lack of political experience.
This could also be the lust for power and the flow of funds after the Arab Spring, all directed to groups that undermined the state’s sovereignty and prestige, in attempts that almost succeeded in dividing Egypt. Intellectuals in the country were alarmed and began resisting the Islamic trend once Islamists thought they are close to holding the grip of power.
When Dr. Mohamed Morsi came to power, in what appeared to be a stroke of luck, Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement was the first to warn Egypt’s MB that the release of MB’s members from prison to power will create political chaos. Ennahda’s Vice President Abdelfattah Mourou first warned the MB secretly and then publicly on satellite channels.
Egypt’s MB members continued to ignore the political forces in the country as well as state institutions, including the army, police and the judiciary. They eventually lost all the means of governing without which the state vanishes and people panic due to the lack of security and stability. In short, once the state suffers insecurity, neither the human rights charters nor the constitution could make up for it. In Egypt, there is an unwritten contract between the ruler and people, under which the ruler vows to ensure the flow of the Nile waters and protect Egyptians from bandits and thieves.
However, the MB did not learn the lesson because of its claimed religious superiority, so its discourse became authoritarian and shaded with religion. Ennahda movement’s advice to Egypt was not implemented in Tunisia. Ennahda’s policy was instead given as a political piety and in line with Kais Saied’s victory in the free and transparent presidential elections. The movement launched its attempts to dominate the state resources, especially after securing Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s support. The country has been suffering from violence and political assassinations with the perpetrators still on the run, particularly Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. The movement further extended its dictatorship relying on its parliamentary majority, paralyzing state administrations and spreading corruption.
Politics is based on history, which for its part is based on the unchanged geography. Therefore, Tunis was affected by Cairo’s experience. Saied tried to eliminate the Islamic movement by enforcing strict temporary measures, which we hope would not last long, and Ennahda will now have to review its actions.
In his letter to his supporters, dubbed “Between Yesterday and Today,” Ennahda’s founder Imam Hassan al-Banna urged them to provide advice and consultation and point out the shortcomings. It is noteworthy that he wrote this letter after the assassination of Mahmoud Fahmy El Nokrashy Pasha, who was expected to be exiled instead.
Al-Banna’s instructions and letters are not sacred and his demands remain realistic. For this reason, Ennahda should have reviewed its failed experience and tried to answer some legitimate questions, such as: Are we Islamists or Muslims? Can we develop a different ideology? Is Islam a comprehensive system or a comprehensive perspective? Are we working on controlling or empowering the community? Is religion’s task is to control or advise? Is the world a place to preach for Islam or a battlefield for Islam? Do Muslims seek the world’s destruction or its guidance?
It is right after all these questions to predict the end of the movement just like the dinosaurs became extinct after failing to keep pace with the changing environment.
According to Imam al-Mawardi from his book, dubbed “Al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah” (The Laws of Islamic Governance), democracy is based on participation not opposition, and democratic norms and practices are more important than obtaining a numerical majority. This is what Tunisia should learn from what happened in Egypt and avoid becoming outlawed.
Gamal Abdul Mabud is an Egyptian writer and researcher in the history of religions and philosophy of doctrines.