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July 23, 2013 No.
998

North African Media Predicts Decline Of Political Islam

The following are three articles from Tunisia and Morocco analyzing both the ouster in Egypt of president and Muslim Brotherhood official Muhammad Mursi and the protests in Turkey against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist AKP. The articles discuss what lessons Tunisia and Morocco – whose prime ministers are members of Islamist parties – can learn from the recent events in Egypt and Turkey.

"Egypt-Tunisia: The Announced End Of Political Islam" – Rachid Barnat, Kapitalis, Tunisia, July 2, 2013

Tunisian journalist Rachid Barnat argues in the Tunisian media outlet Kapitalis that the Arab Spring has the capability to open the people's eyes to the drawbacks of political Islam. He writes that if the Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt had not been elected, people would still be wondering what it would be like to have them in power, and that after the Islamists came to power, people saw that they acted just like the ousted dictators and tried to impose Islamist totalitarian rule. He goes on to predict that political Islam will decline, and that its ideology will disappear, whether peacefully or painfully.

The following are excerpts of his article:

"The Islamists…Renewed The Practices Of The Dictators"

"Some are complaining and regretting that the revolutions have given birth to Islamist powers. [But] they are wrong. At the very least, the Arab Spring [revolutions] are of great merit in that they opened up the eyes of the people of the country concerned, as well as eyes of the people worldwide, regarding political Islam.

"It is a good thing that following the fall of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt some Islamists were elected and elevated to power, by either an absolute or a relative majority…Obviously, for those countries it was not such a good thing, because within a few [short] months, these Islamists, some of whom pretend to be 'moderate,' drove their countries into a real decline, particularly economically and socially. We need only look at the situation of Tunisia and Egypt these days to ascertain, without the need for expertise, the [magnitude of] the decline that was caused in such a short time.

"These Islamists, while pretending to be 'moderate', very quickly – I should say, immediately – revived the practices of the [ousted] dictators: nepotism – that is, the appointment of friends and family members with no proven competence – as well as racketeering and corruption, the instrumentalization of justice [to enforce their ideology and interests], and attacks on [civil] liberties!

"While all this was really bad for the countries, it was also a boon, since the people were able to see what the Islamists can do when they are in power. The people also realized that these 'pious men' were merely ambitious hypocrites, and that what interested them was not their countries' supreme interests, but power, money, racketeering, and favors for friends and family.

"What I am saying is that this was a lesson to all, and an excellent thing. Had the Islamists never come to power, not only would they have been able to continue presenting themselves as victims, but people would have gone on believing in the miracles that they promise.

"When A Party Is Based On Religion, It Cannot Be Moderate"

"The people saw them [the Islamists] at the helm! And this is good. People could also understand that this lesson will leave important marks, meaning that when a party is based on religion, it cannot be moderate nor allow liberties, and that deep inside, it has a totalitarian nature, since it is supposed to implement God's word, basing [everything] on the shari'a which, according to Islamists, is the continuation [of God's word], as [affirmed by] the 'scholars' who interpreted the Koran! As such, the shari'a is as immutable as the Koran! But this way of confounding the word of man with that of Allah is an absolute heresy!

"People could also understand that there is nothing worse than utilizing the word of God in order to rule. These Islamists, due to their incompetency and their abuses of all kinds, have also shown to an increasingly large number of people that religion should not interfere with politics and that it should remain where it is supposed to stay: in the hearts of people and in the mosques!

"As a last consideration, Islamists, unintentionally, promoted, like nobody had done before, the idea of a secular state in Arab countries....

"I Predict, Today, The fall Of Political Islamism"

"I am convinced that Islamism will be defeated without violence, through the electoral process, or else violently in the event that it does not accept the popular will; it will die of the same death as did inhuman ideologies. It is bound to the cemetery of the great liberty killer ideologies such as fascism, communism, pan-Arabism and pan-Islamism.

"Aren't we already seeing the first signs of this decline before the final fall?...The current events in Egypt, with the Tamarrud movement against Islamists, represent one more sign. I predict, today, the fall of political Islamism – tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in a few years. Likely via a painful process? I don't know. However, such a liberty-killer ideology, so deadly, so backward, that brings absolutely nothing in terms of progress, cannot have a future!

"And beware of those who, for their personal ambitions or because they are not up to what history expects of them, are willing to make unnatural alliances with Islamists. Neither the peoples nor history will forgive them."

"Turkey: Would Erdogan's Fall Represent A Fatal Blow To The Myth Of 'Political Islam?'"– Tunisie Numerique, Tunisia, June 2, 2013

In an editorial, the Tunisian media outlet Tunisie Numerique argues that the U.S. and Europe pushed the Arab Spring countries to follow Turkey as a model for their post-revolution governments. Turkey, it says, embodied "the possible and even fortunate" union between political Islam and a civil and democratic state. It adds that after the protests that started in Turkey on May 28,2013, initially to protest against the urban development plan for Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park and subsequently to protest against AKP policies, it became clear that the Turkish model of the post-revolution Islamist regimes is falling apart.

The following are excerpts of the editorial:

"Turkey, with its AKP and its [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, is shaken. Are we on the verge of witnessing the fall of a myth?

"Incidentally, this country [Turkey] had been indicated, by the beginning of what it was agreed would be called the 'Arab Spring,' as an example to be followed. It embodied the possible, and even fortunate, union between political Islam and a civil and democratic state.

"By now, we know that the instigators of the so-called springtime had done all they could in order to place on the thrones unsuited Arab leaders, namely Islamists, insisting that all they had to do was to imitate Turkey and its policy...

"Likewise, it was evident that these Islamists, who had been put into power, were charged with a mission that consisted of introducing the reforms necessary to promote the so-very-cherished dream of a new world order – something that the old leaders of these countries had completely failed to produce...

"It was this mission, with which the newly appointed leaders were charged, and it was also their agenda, that induced the superpowers [i.e. the U.S. and Europe]to close their eyes to the too-numerous 'misdemeanors' of these Islamist governments. In most cases, they [the superpowers] limited themselves to issuing 'minor' reprimands or to just tickling their ears a little – and, above all, they always raised the example of the 'Turkish miracle,' in order to ask for more patience while waiting for the completion of the mission, which evidently was greatly delayed.

"[However,] it looks as though these new leaders are so in love with their new roles, and keep on telling everybody about their supposed 'legitimacy,' that they have ended up believing that they have [legitimacy]. The reality is that these Islamists are not loved by the population like they, and the superpowers, thought.

"But all of a sudden, at this stage of the process, it is the very model for these regimes [i.e. Turkey] that is crumbling..."

"The Lessons Of Cairo"– Fahd Iraqi, Tel Quel, Morocco, July 10, 2013

In his column in the Moroccan weekly Tel Quel, Fahd Iraqi argues that Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelillah Benkirane, who is also the of the Islamist party PJD, is following in the footsteps of Muhammad Mursi. According to Iraqi, PM Benkirane is acting like the guide of a religious brotherhood that is operating in order to remain in command for as long as possible. He writes:

"Unfortunately, [Moroccan PM] Benkirane Seems To Be Following In Mursi's Footsteps"

"By all evidence, Morocco is not Egypt. Certainly, [Morocco Prime Minister] Abdelilah Benkirane is not risking being ousted by the army, as in the case of Muhammad Mursi. Obviously, there is almost no chance in our country for a petition to gain 22 million signatures. Furthermore, there is no risk that we will see thousands of our countrymen camping out in a public square, as [Egyptians did] in Tahrir Square, in order to demand the resignation of our elected head of government. But this does not stop a parallel from being drawn between the two countries, [nor does it mean] that Abdelilah Benkirane shouldn't learn some lessons from the hardships recently experienced by his Egyptian 'brother.'

"Muhammad Mursi succeeded in creating a united front against himself. The Muslim Brotherhood leader, who promised to defend the democratic ideals of the January 25 revolution, and to be president of all Egyptians, very quickly showed his real face. His regime's liberty-killing and authoritarian moves gave him the image of a bearded man [i.e. Islamist] who aims to hijack the gains of the revolution for the benefit of a religious brotherhood and its political offshoots. At the same time, his cohorts' inexperience, or rather its incompetence, deceived a population that sought greater social justice.

"As a result, the Egyptian youth took to the streets; the opposition united in a coalition against the president; the religious leaders of Al-Azhar and of the Coptic Church disavowed him; and the army brusquely relieved him of his duties by force of arms.

"Unfortunately, Abdelilah Benkirane seems to be following in the footsteps of his Egyptian counterpart [i.e. Mursi]. Furthermore, he is not the head of state – he is merely the head of the government. This is surely what protects us against any attempt by his party to gain hegemony. But at the same time, Benkirane has taken hostage the small democratic measures gained by the [Moroccan] popular uprising of February 20 [2011]....

"The Street Gives The Power, But It Can Also Take It Away"

"Concerning socio-economic achievements, Benkirane's performance is not very glittering. So far, he has maintained his great popularity thanks only to a tried and true discourse of victimization. In this discourse, obscure forces are preventing him from going forward, and are obstructing his introduction of the necessary reforms. But as time goes by, this excuse is bound to become less and less convincing. His own electorate will likely surrender to the fact that Benkirane and his cohorts are incapable of solving their day-to-day problems. When the next elections come, it should not be assumed that they will again express their confidence in his party.

"Generally speaking, every day Abdelilah Benkirane is cutting [more of his] ties with his supporters – and fundamentally he is the one at fault. Like Muhammad Mursi, he is acting like the guide of a religious brotherhood [a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood], that is operating in order to remain in command [for as long as possible], rather than as the head of the executive power that is willing to rally Moroccans around a project [i.e. vision] of society that is responsive to the [people's] expectations and that respects plurality.

"Today, [Benkirane's] conduct is successful thanks to a [rather] petty approach: He avoids being at odds with the only institution that can oust him – the monarchy. He seems to forget that it was the mobilization in the streets, via he February 20 movement, that allowed the setting in motion of the process that made it possible for his party to triumph in the elections.

"This second act of the Egyptian revolution should remind us that the street gives the power, but it can also take it away again...."

* A. Mahjar-Barducci is a research fellow at MEMRI.