Monday, January 9, 2012

Olivier Roy: Muslim Brothers and Ennahda are no longer islamist parties

les matins - Olivier Roy door  franceculture

Not long ago I paid attention to Olivier Roy's comments on the results of the elections in Tunisia. Where most French commentators were upset by the gains of the islamist Ennahda party, Roy remained rather relaxed. He pointed to the fact that Ennahda took a distance from its once radical islamist past already some 20 years ago. Consequently the fact that it won some 40% of the votes did not stem from a project to islamize the country, but from the fact that it is a conservative party that stresses the importance of cultural and family values, something that corresponds with a Tunisian society that is more conservative than its former rulers liked us to believe.

Now here is - for the French speakers among us - another interesting comment by this expert on Islam and islamism. Roy is a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. He was previously a research director at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a lecturer for both the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) and the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (IEP). His most famous book is  L'Echec de l'Islam politique (1992), which appeared two years later in an English translation (The Failure of Political Islam).
Here, in this video he is questioned on the French tv-channel France culture about the chances that the Arab Spring will bring an islamisation to the Middle East. Roy contends that
- parties like Ennahda in Tunisia or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are no longer the radical islamist parties they used to be. Out of necessity they shelved the hard core, much like the socialist parties in the West had to shelve Marxism. Right now they opt for democracy and are parties which in many respects are to be considered just conservative parties, stressing conservative values, like the family, chastity etc. In some ways they resemble christian democrats in the West, that as we tend to forget, made their first appearance not earlier than last century.
- About Libya and the call for a return to the sharia that could be heard, Roy argues that the future of Libya will not be a matter of sharia yes or no. It is a country that falls outside the scope of the Arab Spring, as it was outside intervention that got rid of the regime. Now its problems are not sharia, but tribalism and divisions and it's to be expected that not politics but weapons will decide its future.
- On the matter of the combined victory of Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, like in Egypt, Roy again makes a comparison with the West. He compares the Salafists with the far right in some Western countries. And like Western conservative parties in some countries the Muslim Brothers now have the choice to align themselves with more liberal parties against the Salafist trend, or to have - as happens in some other countries - a coalition with the far right, in this case the Salafists.
(h/t Arabist) 

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