Public Lecture The Evolution of Islamic Political Thought

Mar 9, 2018 - Events, Featured, Featured on
Dr Azzam Tamimi

Date: Friday, 9th March 2018
Time: 7.00-10.30 PM
Venue: Spices, Concorde Hotel, KL

Ennahda, one of the most influential political parties in the Arab world and a major force in Tunisia’s emergence as a democracy, recently announced a historic transition. Ennahda has moved beyond its origins as an Islamist party and has fully embraced a new identity as a party of Muslim democrats. Ennahda is no longer both a political party and a social movement. It has ended all of its cultural and religious activities and now focuses only on politics.

Ennahda’s evolution mirrors Tunisia’s broader social and political trajectory. The party first emerged as an Islamist movement in response to repression at the hands of a secularist, authoritarian regime that denied citizens religious freedom and the rights of free expression and association. For decades, Tunisian dictators shut down all political dis­course in the country, forcing movements with political aims to operate exclusively as social and cultural organizations. But the Jasmine revolution brought an end to authoritarian rule and opened up space for open, free, and fair political competition.

Tunisia’s new constitution, which Ennahda members of parliament helped draft and which was ratified in 2014, enshrines democracy and protects political and religious freedoms. Under the new constitution, the rights of Tunisians to worship freely, express their convictions and beliefs, and embrace an Arab Muslim identity are guaranteed, and so Ennahda no longer needs to focus its energies on fighting for such protections. Therefore, the party no longer accepts the label of “Islamism”—a concept that has been disfigured in recent years by radical extremists—as a description of its approach. In this new democratic stage of Tunisian history, the question is no longer one of secularism versus religion. Today, Tunisians are less concerned about the role of religion than about building a governance system that is democratic and inclusive and that meets their aspirations for a better life. Ennahda instead aims to find solutions to matters of concern to all of the country’s citizens and residents.

What then could we, in this country, learn from the evolution of Ennahda specifically and that of the Islamic political thought in general.

Jointly organized by:
Islamic Renaissance Front & Penang Institute