By Taha Akyol
How nice were our dreams when we were
entering the “information age.” All totalitarian regimes, left and right, had
fallen. The correctness of democracy and the market economy were certainly
The “Arab Spring” had elevated this
optimism all together; “Muslim democracy” concepts started being debated.
However, this optimism did not last long.
The only democracy the Arab Spring generated has been the Tunisian democracy.
Except for Tunisia, bloody sectarianism, identity-based massacres and military
regimes like the one in Egypt came out of the Arab Spring.
The underlying feature in Tunisia’s success
is a huge virtue that even we don’t have here at an adequate dose. Both the
Islamists and the seculars were able to sit down and compromise. This is a
philosophical advancement beyond the narrow meaning of “writing a
Islamists did not acclaim the “Sovereignty
belongs to Allah” slogan of radical political Islamists, they accepted the
“sovereignty belongs to the people” slogan, which has secular features.
Seculars, on the other hand, did not acclaim the “laicization” slogan of the
radicals; they accepted freedom of religion and conscience in the liberal
meaning. They also added a clause to their constitution: “The mosques should
not be instrumentalised, they should be impartial.”
The underlying philosophy is to avoid
radicalism, and encourage the mentality of sharing power and the culture of
Because the wise leader of Islamists in
Tunisia, Rached Ghannouchi, and secular parties both held this virtue, they
reconciled and wrote a constitution hand in hand and approved it. So much so
that because it was approved in the Constituent Assembly with 200 votes against
12 votes, there was no need for a referendum.
Because a constitution was written through
civilian consensus for the first time in Islamic history, the 2015 Nobel Peace
Prize was given to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet: Tunisian General
Labour Union, Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, Human Rights
League and Tunisian Order of Lawyers.
While reaching this stage, the Islamists
and seculars in Tunisia, of course, accumulated a significant intellectual and
philosophical advancement. They are the acceptance of the seculars of the
freedom of religion and conscience in liberal democracies and the acceptance of
the presence of Islamists in public and political spheres.
The wise person Ghannouchi’s statement on
the separation of religious activities and political activities is the epitome
of a very deep and rich background that is beyond the extent of a newspaper
Ghannouchi knows very well what grave
consequences blending religion with politics had in history. “This is good for
politicians because they would no longer be accused of manipulating religion
for political means and good for religion because it would not be held hostage
to politics,” Ghannouchi said.
Ghannouchi is a great personality I have
the honour and pleasure of having met. Islamic circles know him very well, but
his statements were only covered in short stories; they were not made to be
themes for symposiums or debates.
When all values and all themes are viewed
through political eyeglasses, then moral and philosophical values remain behind
Politics have sunk to delivering excited
speeches at Tuesday’s parliamentary group meetings and in political town
Ghannouchi is right; politicization of
religion harms both religion and politics.