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 proven.
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 constitution.”
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 conciliation.
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 column.
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 political priorities.
Politics have sunk to delivering excited speeches at Tuesday’s parliamentary group meetings and in political town rallies.
Ghannouchi is right; politicization of religion harms both religion and politics.