Middle East Briefs
Parallel to the Center’s scholarly work, Middle East Briefs provides a brief analysis of a single issue at the top of the region’s political, social, or economic agenda. Targeted primarily at decision-makers and opinion leaders, the publication was launched in 2005.
May 2021 – What Is "Muslim" about Tunisia's "Muslim Democrats"?
Andrew F. March
Middle East Brief 142 (Summary) — During Tunisia's post-revolutionary transition, the traditionally Islamist party Ennahda explicitly rebranded itself as a "Muslim Democratic" party, committed to consensual democracy and a pluralist political order. Some analysts view this as a strategic move driven by political necessity and claim it masks a long-term aim to Islamize the state and society. Others see the change as a genuine reconciliation of the party's ideological commitments with a political system based on a democratic and civil state. In this Brief, Andrew March argues that two connected but distinct conceptions of politics have been evident for decades in the political thought and speech of Ennahda's co-founder and intellectual leader, Rached Ghannouchi. He examines how Ghannouchi and Ennahda have long proclaimed both a pragmatic willingness to engage in "politics" any time that political freedoms could be secured but also a more comprehensive vision of why Islam actually calls for a deeper form of democracy. Ennahda's commitment to "Muslim Democracy," therefore, predates the 2010-11 Tunisian Revolution and has coexisted ambiguously with a commitment to a more comprehensive "Islamic Democracy."