Is political Islam alien to Tunisian culture?

With the advent of the end of the Gregorian year, which precedes the birthday of Christ, controversy and discussions spread on social media about “is it correct for a Muslim to congratulate non-Muslims on their religious holidays”.

To understand some of the comments, I entered some personal accounts to find out the intellectual and cultural backgrounds of the commentators, where I came out with the conclusion that these people are mostly from the most closed and puritan group in Tunisia, and among them are many Tunisians residing abroad, especially in countries where Muslims are considered minorities.

Based on these comments, I see that whoever believes that political Islam is alien to us and those who planted it within Tunisian society are the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood, let him review his accounts!

If we go back to history, we would know that the height of political Islam was in the second half of the last century (at that time the leaders of the Islamic trend in Tunisia, such as Moro, Ghannouchi and other faces of political Islam, were not born yet) and in that particular period, the liberation movements from colonialism were investing in religious feeling Emotional people in order to confront the colonizer. After years of independence, the Islamic trend was in control of the Tunisian University, and it grew stronger with the rise of radical Islam during the Iranian revolution, which overthrew the rule of the last king of Iran, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. And let us not forget that in the first free pluralist elections in Tunisia, less than a year after The fall of the Ben Ali regime, at least 48% of the vote went to representatives of political Islam (Ennahda and Popular Petition).

The fact that must not be denied is that political Islam has historical and cultural roots, and it is a reality that permeates mentalities in different forms. It is not a Tunisian peculiarity, and we confront it with arbitrariness, prisons and exclusion. We have tried it for decades (the eras of Bourguiba and Ben Ali) and we have noticed its results.

That is why I believe that there is no solution to besiege the extremist idea (religious, ethnic or ideological) except by strengthening democracy and individual and collective freedoms, including religious freedoms, intolerance for those who demand freedom for themselves and do not respect the freedom of others, and to confront fanaticism and closed-mindedness by spreading a culture of diversity and pluralism in community circles and to be basic educational subjects taught in kindergartens, institutes and universities.

By Mohamed Ali Mankai
Architect and former executive director of the Afak Tounes party