Just how Islamist will the likely dominant Tunisian party be? This question’s going to be asked a
thousand hundred times (Tunisia probably won’t get that much coverage – we’ve got like 9 Republican candidates to lazily gossip about) in the media and in DC in the coming months. And there will likely be strongly negative answers. Inevitably, neoconservatives are going to shriek and offer this up as justification for coddling dictatorships in the Middle East and as an example of Obama’s naivete – ignoring changing power dynamics. Liberal media organizations like The New Republic will run some articles defending Israel against another perceived threat against the chosen land from Islam. But we should probably be asking just how different is Ennahda’s platform from the Republican platform?
The modern Republican Party is a moderate political Christian party. Their pro-life message, and defense for overriding the free will of women, is that it is against the Christian ethic.
Rick Perry, the governor of the Texas, prays for rain from a Christian God as a policy. George W. Bush has repeatedly said God told him to end the tyranny in Iraq; there’s so much crazy in that statement that it was collectively ignored by the nation. Republicans have metamorphosed their small government, anti-poor and anti-minority economic and political platform into a religious defense, citing their political platform as the one closest to God. There’s a Dominion movement trying to spread political Christianity, and it’s based in the Republican partisanship.
So, you’ve got prominent crazy people at the top of the Republican food chain, and there has been since at least 2000. But they don’t act as crazy as they talk or profess to be, just like Ennahda will likely not act as crazy as an Islamist party would in a vacuum, because of other moderating groups in its governing coalition.
It’s not clear if the Ennahda party members believe crazy things specifically. We’ll have to wait and see. But they believe in moral guidance from Islam in their polity, just like Republicans believe Christianity should be a part of their polity, but in the face of political resistance, they will also focus on their economic and political platform, just like Republicans.
Ennahda officials say their interim government will focus on economic development and internal security, not moral issues. Their candidates and leaders focused on the same practical themes on the campaign trail. Acknowledging a strong tradition of women’s rights in Tunisia that is unusual for the region, the party’s officials have repeatedly pledged to promote equal opportunities in employment and education as well as the freedom to choose or reject Islamic dress like the head scarf.
From reporting, they also seem to use Allah as a central political prop for popularity, just like Republicans have made the Christian god their central prop for votes.
But Ennahda has not hesitated to capitalize on Islam’s popularity or prestige in the eyes of voters. Its supporters sing religious songs at rallies, its speakers quote freely from the Koran and its leaders often talk about protecting the right to practice Islam after decades of pressure from Tunisia’s secular dictators. NYT
At the start, they don’t sound or act very different campaigning at all.