AK Party model for Tunisia

TunisiaWednesday, 26 January 2011 14:08

In his book titled “Al-Hurriyat al-’Ammah fid-Dawlah al-Islamiyah” (Public Freedoms in an Islamic State), Rashid Al-Ghannushi argues that the civilian and public liberties advocated by Islam are much broader than the actual freedoms available in Western democracies.

According to the basic arguments suggested by Al-Ghannushi, a leading figure of the al-Nahda movement, and Muslim scholars like him, the Western world does not allow the Muslim world to conduct reforms in a natural way. I had a chance to meet Al-Ghannushi in London in 1996. He is a leading Muslim intellectual who is versed both in traditional Islamic sciences and in Western philosophy. He believes the West is exerting a political and intellectual hegemony over the Muslim world. The reason why the West insists on tailoring the content and framework of reforms is that it owes the welfare it has experienced in the last two centuries to this. There is an absolute link between the West’s ongoing welfare and its existing political/intellectual hegemony over the Muslim world.

The West does not want to lose its monopoly over reasoning, and as the Muslim world is not allowed to have or develop its own reason, it will only implement the reforms developed by the West. In socioeconomic terms, this means that the West exerts full control over the management of the Muslim world’s resources via local/national elite groups.

Yet this system is no longer functioning properly. It produces politically repressive regimes, economic crises, widespread unemployment, mass migrations to urban centers, the corrupt military and civilian bureaucracy, bribery, thefts, murders by unknown assailants, unlawful executions, a judicial system that partners with despotic rulers and twisted cities with all sorts of pathologies, etc.

On the other hand, the Western media is still guided by its traditional Orientalist point of view, and disseminates the false information that the current misery in the Muslim world is attributable to Islam and/or Islamist political/social movements. They pump up fear of radical Islam/political Islam: Now that there are Muslims who raise objections to Western reforms, we should fear from them; those who challenge Western hegemony are terrorists and, as suggested by George W. Bush, they must be destroyed in their dens. They further see it as perfectly acceptable to lend support to local/national regimes that are remnants of colonialism -- dictatorships, religious monarchies, autocratic regimes -- and, if necessary, to occupy countries -- such as Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan.

This maddening modern tragedy may bring forth mutiny from anyone and at any time. It may be true that people have been silent for a long time, but anything can happen at any time. Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself alight in Tunisia, not only sparked the light of mutiny, but also served as a role model for others in other Arab countries -- which was, though, not approved. Now young people in other countries and regions are setting themselves ablaze.

It is too early to draw analogies. But it is safe to argue that as was the case before the Islamic revolution in Iran, neither Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s Kemalist administration nor the master of colonialism, France, and the global colonialist, the US, were expecting such a mutiny. It suddenly broke out. Ben Ali, a disciple of Habib Bourguiba, had taken office by promising to take revenge on tyranny, oppression, lies and murders, like the Abbasids who had said they would take revenge for the persecution of the Ahl al-Bayt, or the Prophet’s Family. But in the same way as the Abbasids, who had unearthed the bones of Umayyad sultans, Ben Ali and his administration undertook far greater atrocities than their predecessors.

Tunisia had taken the Kemalist revolution as its model. If one were to seek a concrete example of Kemalism in its purist form, it could be found not in Turkey but in contemporary Tunisia. Now, all the pieces are falling into their proper places. Everyone wonders what will happen next. Apparently, the West will try to steal away today’s mutinies by employing its local collaborators, as it has done in the past.

I should note that the current revolt is not a “discipline revolution,” but only a mutiny, a social explosion. If a political movement that thrives on the authentic and genuine social texture of Muslim society can oscillate in harmony with the underlying demands for change, then the single-party Kemalist era in Tunisia will end and the model of Turkey with its ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) can begin in the short and medium-term. Soon, Tunisia and Arab countries will find the AK Party’s experience to be their most reliable course.

Ali Bulaç

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