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The Struggle for democracy in the Muslim World
Author/Source: Muzaffar K Awan  (mkawanmd@yahoo.com) Posted by: admin
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The politically progressive Muslim‐majority countries such as Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia, ambiguous state of affairs in Pakistan and ongoing struggles with popular uprisings in the Middle East/North Africa have highlighted the need for a conceptualization of the socio‐political shifts and aspirations sweeping the Muslim World. These shifts are not exclusively secular or sacred but represent a blending and homeostasis of the secular and the sacred. They also highlight a yearning for an evolving and new socio-political paradigm that accommodates the religious aspirations of Muslims while promoting democratic governance based on the principles of popular sovereignty and social justice.

The recent challenges of political developments in the Muslim World generally highlight a deep disillusionment with and resistance to authoritarian and corrupt governance ‐ both so-called Islamic and or secular. Various global surveys and qualitative studies on Muslim attitudes reveal widespread support for a homeostatic form of secularization located within a post‐Islamist (post-fundamentalist) framework of the soft secular democratic state. In keeping with these ideational shifts and political opportunity structures, many Islamist political parties are becoming pragmatic and are gradually moderating their stance, particularly with regard to sharia and the Islamic state. Here, we discuss the global shift in Muslim aspirations in the secular‐oriented Muslim‐majority states of Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia. In these states, mainstream Islamist parties and Muslim organizations have begun to focus on good governance within the post‐Islamist (post-fundamentalist) framework of the inclusive soft secular democratic state.In Pakistan the ideational shift and political opportunity structure still remains ambiguous due to Pakistan’s own checkered history but with ongoing democratization process, the new paradigm shift is bound to occur in Pakistan also.

The historical roots of democracy in Islam
To begin with democratic values and practices are inherently and historically rooted in Islam from the 7th century prophetic state of Medina, Khilafat-e-Rashida (rightly guided) period and the early century of Islam with secular-sacred homeostasis. There had been ongoing regressive historical changes in the Political system in the Islamic world after this early period when Arab imperialism (the Umayyad and the Abbasids) came into practice of conducting authoritarian system that abandoned Uma (a community of communities) of democratic concept and practice instituted by the prophet himself--a common inclusive human interest as a whole.

In the West, East and the Rest we today foresee our next stage of human evolutionary development to continue and create conditions in which people’s basic needs being met (elimination of poverty and ignorance), they can then evolve from freedom through justice, equality, discussion (dialogue), accountability, openness, transparency to trust and the like. By virtue of all this, we can certainly conclude that basically these are such universal values and the same are true Islamic values that are genuinely democratic.

However, the opposition in the Islamic world as a result of the different views between those fundamentalists who campaign for Islamic state or Sharia’s (Legal-formal) and those who support soft Secular system (Substantial) are unavoidable due to the fact that they have no compromise or reconciliation among group elites. Such resentments lead to the bloody events because they are very strict in responding to these phenomena due to their ignorance. However, when the Prophet of Islam himself practiced democracy at the very beginning of period in Medina through Misaq-ul Medina (Medina charter and a written constitution) in which Prophet accommodated and reconciled all interest of community even though they were different in terms of culture, religion and the like. Democratic practice is certainly rooted and found in the early Islamic history and the elections of Islamic leadership after the death of the Prophet (the period of four Caliphs) and subsequently for about a century. Similar to this, as the largest of Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is a country today in which democracy has been implemented since Muslim groups believe that Islam and democracy are congruent. The same is true today in post-laic Turkey.

The Muslim world in the recent centuries has been passing through the toughest period of its history. And presently, the AF-Pak chaos and the latest developments in Egypt, Syria and Middle East do not put an end to the Muslim world democratization and Arab Spring process. This process will continue to go up and down for many more years (20 to 30) in several Muslim countries. Therefore, Islamic world as a whole will continue to face insecure and instable AF-Pak and MENA region in the coming years.

Commonalities between Egypt and Pakistan
Egypt and Pakistan have much in common, and different as well. Like Pakistan’s famous and ancient Indus valley civilization, Egypt has the ancient Nile Delta. Egypt has acute energy shortages and financial crisis similar to Pakistan, and both are negotiating with IMF for economic assistance. The most interesting similarity is the armed forces of both nations that have been under the western influence for decades. At the same time, the militaries of Pakistan and Egypt have for decades dominated the conservative, liberal and nationalist societal forces of their respective countries.

The ideology of Ikhwan-ul-Muslemun over the years has been spreading throughout the Muslim world, including Pakistan. Muslim Brotherhood (MB) influenced political parties in Pakistan that have been part of numerous political coalitions but have never been successful to form a national government. Their agenda has been exploited more, and their leaders have let this to happen on numerous occasions with a loss of their authenticity and popularity in Pakistan.

However, in Egypt the scenario is different and after decades of struggle and years of persecution at the hands of the Militaristic Egyptian state, MB had eventually gained enough backing to form the government in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak. But just after a year in power, Mohamed Morse’s government has been overthrown in a military coup early July 2013 and the country once again appears to be on the verge of a civil war. The scary thing is that it’s not just Egypt but the entire region, which seems to be heading towards a confrontation due to the societal imbalance and inability to peacefully resolve the battle for superiority between the secular, nationalist, conservative and religious influences.

The Societal Balance of Power
Despite state harassment and ideological differences with factions that propagated total revolt against the perceived un-Islamic democratic system, MB worked and moderated within it to finally arrive at the helm of power. This happened in spite of Israeli apprehension that proved to be a fallacy about once in power the Ikhwans will undo the peace treaty. Then what actually happened?

While most of the focus has remained on the internal causes and mismanagement of MB that may have led to Morse’s overthrow, there are obviously wider patterns to consider as the struggle between status quo and change continues in Egypt, Pakistan and the wider Islamic world.

Since the end of World War II, the liberals, socialists, nationalists, and a mix of conservatives and religious influences, have had their ups and downs in the region. For the most part, their political maneuvering was the outcome of tensions between the socialist and capitalist models that were playing out globally.

For example, it resulted in the creation of the Arab Socialist Baath Party in 1947; a coming together of nationalist and socialist forces against the western imperialism that called for an Arab unification. It later split in to Iraqi and Syrian factions. These same influences were also acting out in Egypt, causing Gamal Abdul Nasser to play a leading role in the formation of the Non-Aligned movement and nationalization of the Suez Canal Company.

Generally, the nationalists in the Arab world were more accepting of socialist influences emanating from the Soviet Union. The conservative and religious influences, on the other hand, have had an uncomfortable political existence. They were looked upon with distrust, as waiting for their chance to revive the Uma and the Khilafat. This in turn impacted the strategies of nationalists and liberals, who exploited the fear of global powers from the conservatives and religious segments.

The role of military in Egypt & Pakistan
An Egyptian military helicopter, during the 4th of July 2013 celebration in USA, hovered over the crowds in Tahrir Square as demonstrators celebrated the military ouster of Mohammed Morse, Egypt's first democratically elected leader. The circumstances couldn't have been more similar comparing with the October of 1999, when Pakistani demonstrators had celebrated the expulsion of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government by the then General Pervez Musharraf, the Military dictator. Having come to power through a discredited election, Nawaz Sharif enjoyed unprecedented power that he appeared to be using to set himself up as a modern Caliph with an almost divine right to rule. But the situation changed when Sharif fired Musharraf (a junior general whom Sharif himself had promoted through the ranks) while he was overseas. Which is why when Musharraf talked about a new Pakistan, a more secular Pakistan, and made the promise of free and fair elections, many Pakistanis rejoiced, with excitement that their country might be afforded a fresh start.

All that was indeed only a false shrouding, as Pakistan undoubtedly suffered from 4th and another almost decade-long Military dictatorship under Musharraf. Pakistani economy tumbled further, and country remains embroiled to this day in a shadowy war in the tribal regions, its relationship with India took a nose-dive, with Musharraf's reign ending only after his attempt to oust the chief justice resulted in his own downfall.

Many of us Pakistani-Americans, like much of the world today, kept a close eye on Egypt ever since Tahrir Square first became a symbol for a people rising up in the face of unspeakable militaristic oppression over the decades in Egypt. And yet with the whole world's focus on the Middle East, Pakistan recently underwent the first ever transition in its history from one democratically elected government to another. In spite of the flawed democratic governance of Pakistani politicians over the last 5 years, best efforts of the Taliban ongoing terror and killing, the Pakistani recent elections saw a record turnout for the democratic election process. Unlike Egypt's democracy, which had all the fire of an adolescent coming of age, Pakistan's democracy seemed to have grown up some in maturity. But this political maturity at snails pace has not come about easily.

Musharraf was, as pointed out, Pakistan's fourth military dictator in an illustrious Military saga. Between four of them, they had started an unprovoked war with India in the '60s (Ayub Khan), brought the separation of Bangladesh in the '70s (Yahiya Khan), and made Pakistan the hotbed of militant and radical Islamic extremists in the '80s (Zia-ul-Haq). All of these men in Military uniforms had been greeted with some amount of popular approval and yet left the country with deep wounds yet to heal.

Egyptian people are right to be angry at the Morse government’s poor performance that failed to deliver on most of the promises it had made. And yet a lot of what Morse is accused of doing -- consolidating power, intimidating opponents, and mismanaging the economy -- did not seem to be out of the ordinary. Democracies, particularly ones as immature as Pakistan’s and Egypt's, are never pretty, at least not when they are growing up. While military dictatorships offer an illusion of control and stability, no country knows better than both Pakistan & Egypt about the lasting ill effects of unelected governments. The '90s were a time of particular turmoil in Pakistan, with civilian governments exchanging power like needles in a crack shack, resulting in ubiquitous discontent. And yet, Pakistan's foundations were never made weaker than by the decisions of a military machine that ostensibly is government's most disciplined and nationalistic wing.

The irony of the champions of democracy now dancing in the streets as champions of a military coup is not subtle. As Pakistani-American Muslims, we have had always looked toward 4th of July celebrations and the democracies of the rest of the West and hoped for similar stability and decorum, without realizing what it took for those systems to reach that mature state of their own.

To our brothers in Egypt, we wish them well in their ongoing struggle but offer them the highest degree of caution when greeting an ambitious military general in the likes of many Muslim countries in the recent past. Some of the military's intentions have already been made clear with the systematic pursuit of the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership. While we hope very much that this celebration will not be seen as an immature display of misdirected frustration in Egypt, for which, history paints an utterly pessimistic picture. As Pakistanis have now realized -- none more so than Nawaz Sharif, who was recently re-elected into power after years spent in jail and exile -- revenge is best served at the ballot box indeed.

The military has usually played a pivotal role in balancing these different influences, and continues to in places like Egypt and Pakistan. No longer so in Turkey of last decade, even if the army was the protector of radical secularism that was adopted under Ataturk. In Egypt and Pakistan, the military seems to choreograph the secular, nationalist and conservative responses, so that they don’t get significantly out of line from what would be globally accepted. However, due to factors like the war on terror, corruption, and lack of governance, the political landscape has been changing dramatically. The conservative quarters have been gaining considerably while secular block appears to be receding.

The failure of secular governments and autocratic rulers to govern and provide better opportunities for the growing Muslim masses has also speeded up the change in ground reality. While the communism is no more, these leaders used the war on terror to gain western legitimacy. This has been most prominent in Pakistan, where even the democratic system has failed to live up to the aspiration of the people. While high marks are being given to the smooth transition of government in Pakistan, or the process so to say, the performance of these governments was quite dismal.

Considering he recent example: the PML-N government won the elections on a conservative platform with affinity towards some religious and conservative groups. Once in power, it has quickly distanced itself from that posture and its present trajectory appears no different or better than Musharraf or Zardari. This misrepresentation also discredits the system in the long run. Without dealing with the security situation, the economic miracle simply will not happen and is it is disingenuous to claim so.

Indonesian politics, military and homeostasis between Islam and politics
During the first five years since the 1998 fall of Indonesia’s Militaristic President Suharto after 32 years, Indonesia has had three presidents—Bacharuddin Yusuf Habibie (from 1998–99), Abdurrahman Wahid (from 1999 to 2001), and Megawati Sukarnoputri (from 2001–04) —all of them took power by democratic means. The people of Indonesia have enjoyed freedom of expression and opinion, freedom of information, checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government, and a depoliticized military.

The military, in Indonesia had then decided to let its influence be handled through retired generals in the political sphere, thereby isolating the serving officers from the politics. The election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (a retired general) as a president came about in the eventual culmination of that process by 2004. This could too serve as an example for Pakistan, Egypt and other Muslims countries.

In Indonesia, in the military context, it was also mainly after the Asian financial meltdowns that the military had to further surrender its power. Furthermore, Islam-democratic homeostasis culminated in Indonesia through the works of enlightened Muslim intellectuals like Ahmad Syafii Maarif (born 1935), Nurcholish Madjid (1939-2005) and Abdurrahman Wahid (1940-2009) also a politician and president from 1999 to 2001.

The debate between two earliest Indonesian leaders Kusno Sukarno (1901-70) and Muhammad Natsir (1908-93) was the classic example of the disagreement between secularists and Islamists over various issues regarding religion and politics early on in Indonesia. “Sharia for Muslims” in Indonesia was the words originally in the Indonesian constitution, but following the protests by a Christian delegation, in August 1945, the Preparatory Committee of Independence removed them. Throughout recent Indonesian history, Islamists had been struggling to return those words back to the constitution. They tried during the Sukarno times, but failed. They had also tried in the Suharto times, but it was just impossible to do so as his regime did not allow any talk about political Islam.

There have been indeed conciliatory moderating changes in the political mindset of Indonesian Muslims over the decades. Partly due to the factors that were boosted by secular-militaristic regime under Suharto and partly due to factors, which were pushed by liberal Muslims intellectuals themselves, and the way they constructively perceived democracy and plurality in the Islamic context. The opportunity for Islamists had just come once again to reinsert those words back again into the constitution when Indonesia became a democratic country after Suharto’s fall in 1998. They had put their hopes in the 1999 general election but still it never happened.

To begin with, Indonesia, since Sukarno’s era, had been a state based on an Indonesian national ideology and philosophy called “Pancasila” (Five Principles). These five principles were: (1) Belief in one supreme God or monotheism; (2) Just and civilized humanism; (3) The Unity of Indonesia; (4) Democracy; and (5) Social Justice.

Living harmoniously in the religiously pluralistic Indonesia had only become possible, when two conditions were met: (1) Pancasila as state ideology was whole-heartedly accepted and supported by the Indonesian Muslims, the largest religious groups in the country; and (2) Indonesia as a country was governed democratically. Thanks to the Reformation Movement (Gerakan Reformasi) that had brought an end to Suharto’s dictatorship in May 1998, the two conditions had begun to be met again in the post-Suharto Indonesia. There is no stronger indication of this than the rejection by the majority of Muslim politicians in the newly and democratically-elected People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat or MPR) of the “Syari`ah amendment” in 2002. Although some politicians who came from Islam-based political parties supported the amendment, they only constituted about 15% minority of the total membership of MPR. In Indonesia’s history, this was the first and the most democratic decision in which Indonesian people (including majority of Muslim politicians in the People’s Consultative Assembly fully and heartedly) accepted Pancasila as a state ideology and rejected the Jakarta Charter for the state to implement Islamic law and become “Islamic State”.

This happened because of the changes that had been taking place over the many decades in Muslim intellectual thought and practice in Indonesia providing further Islamic justification for the acceptance of pluralistic and democratic Pancasila.

Through lectures, writings, and actions, the three most enlightened and influential Muslim thinkers and reformers in Indonesian contemporary history advocated liberal democracy and delegitimized Islamist political parties. Unlike in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries, but very much like Gulen and Nursi movements that too had begun in Turkey earlier, the Indonesian reform movements have always been through large organizations. Intellectuals such as Abdurrahman Wahid (1940-2009), Ahmad Syafii Maarif (born 1935) and Nurcholish Madjid (1939-2005) were Muslim leaders who chaired these large organizations. They spread their liberal and pluralistic ideas to Muslim society through these organizations. Wahid did it through Nahdlatul Ulama (40 million members), Maarif through Muhammadiyah (30 million members), and Madjid through Islamic Student Association and its alumnae (over 10 million members).

Madjid developed his support for the modern ideas of justice, equality, tolerance, pluralism, consensus, opposition, and popular sovereignty from Islamic doctrines and traditions. He argued that any ideas developed by Muslims that contradicted these modern social and political ideas should be subjected to historical criticism. By taking this approach and stating it publicly, coupled by his being an effective writer and orator, he became an important agent of Islamic cultural change among his contemporaries. He had been, for several decades, a major force in developing a modern Islamic discourse and political practice in Indonesia.

Madjid rejected the idea of Islamic theocratic state. He argued that for many Muslims, Pancasila is, from the Qur’anic perspective, a common term (kalimah sawâ’) between different religious people that God commands to seek and find. He quoted a verse from the Qur’an (3: 64) addressed to the Prophet Muhammad: “Say: O people of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons, other than God….”Thus the principle of monotheism, for Madjid, is the common term of all divinely inspired religions. But he quickly added that the adherents of different religions could also agree to a set of common terms that included more values than one of monotheism alone. “And the more values that the adherents of different religions could agree upon as common terms, the better it should be,” he wrote. This means, to have five subjects as common terms between different religions or factions, such as with Pancasila for Indonesian people, is better than to have just one subject. In that way Pancasila became the firm basis for the development of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and pluralism in Indonesia. Madjid was known for his secularization motto, “Islam, Yes, Islamic party, no,” which meant that Muslims did not have to support any political party using Islamic name or symbols.

Madjid ideas found cordial support from his close colleague Abdurrahman Wahid (1940 –2009), another major agent of the modernization of Muslim thought and political culture in Indonesia. In fact, given his background and social status, Wahid’s agency has perhaps been even more decisive than that of Madjid’s. A grandson of the founder of NU Hasyim Asy'ari, (The NU- Nahdlatul Ulama founded in 1925 has been for decades one of the largest independent faith-based social but non-political movement in Indonesia. The estimates of its membership range are as high as 40 million or higher. NU has been (like Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt) acting as a charitable and socially transforming movement, helping to fill in many of the shortcomings of the Indonesian government in the civil society; it has been funding schools, hospitals, and organized communities into more coherent civic groups in order to help combat poverty and ignorance) and a son of Wahid Hasyim, the long-term NU Chairman. In 1984, Abdurrahman Wahid, inherited the leadership of NU from his father, and he was later elected President of Indonesia in 1999.

In addition to his own intellectual Islamic thought and teachings, Wahid had also been known for his close attention to Western intellectual, civilizational and artistic tradition. Although he was less inclined than Madjid in anchoring his ideas in Islamic teachings and tradition, his voice strongly resonated in and was widely accepted in NU circles, importantly because of his social standing.

For decades, Wahid’s major concern had been with plurality and tolerance in the context of the modern Indonesian nation-state. He argued that in order for Indonesia to be a modern nation-state, and for the sake of the public interest it and the core values of Islamic teachings; every citizen in the country must be treated equally regardless of his or her religious affiliation. Since Indonesia is a religiously plural nation, in which Islam is only one among many other religions, then treating someone as a second-class citizen simply because he or she is non-Muslim was entirely intolerable. For this reason, Wahid had argued, putting Islam and other religions as complementary, not antagonistic, was necessary for the sake of the public interest. He also believed that Islam could indeed thrive spiritually in the Indonesian multicultural state that is not formally based on Islam. He wrote, “NU adheres to a conception of such multicultural nation state that was in accordance with the Pancasila and the Constitution of 1945.”NU had become the pioneer in ideological affairs. This has been the case even though throughout the entire Islamic world there is still a problem between nationalism and Islam. All the Saudi writers consider nationalism a form of secularism. They do not yet comprehend that nationalism such as in Indonesia was not hard-core secularist, but rather soft secular that respected the role of religion. During the New Order (Suharto) period, Wahid’s idea of an inclusive Islam led him to support Pancasila as the sole foundation of Indonesian politics. And under his leadership, NU was the first major faith-based social movement and organization that had accepted Pancasila as the final state ideology. Moreover, NU declared that Pancasila is its organizational foundation, a decision that had a powerful effect on NU’s role in national politics. Among others, under his leadership, NU withdrew from partisan politics and declined its support for PPP, an Islam-based political party. And in 1984, NU returned to the 1926 khittah (“the guideline of 1926,” the year it was born), meaning that it became once again a purely social and faith based movement, but not a political movement. Under this principle, as if echoing Madjid’s secularization motto, the members of NU were free to participate and vote for any political party, regardless of its religious affiliation. Since then, NU members can be found in many parties, Islamic and secular, including the NU-based PKB political party that had rejected the “Syari`ah amendment” in 2002.

What many Islamophobes around the world were relieved about was the fact that Indonesia, not unlike Turkey, did not descend into an exclusivist Islamic state. Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia and the Muslim world as a whole too in my view will not be endangered or destined for any theocracy ever.

In short, the system in these Muslim majority states has tendency and continues to revert towards status quo, when dramatic changes are required to adapt to the ground reality. In this context, the military coup in Egypt is a dangerous reversal. It has given an opportunity to the extremists to convince even the moderating Islamists that there is no use in working with in the system to gain power.

With the help of the military, the seculars may have pushed back the Islamists in Egypt. However, subsequent demonstrations have shown the MB was not totally without support. As mentioned above, the conservative and Islamist influences are gaining throughout the Islamic world. How much have they penetrated the armed forces of these nations is a touchy question. It is imperative for the militaries of these nations to not tread too far from the pulse of their society, as they’ll do so on their own peril. With polarization at its pinnacle, it may mean staying neutral and not interfere in favor of one group or the other.

Muslims nations in general are today increasingly becoming aware of the multiple forms of secularization, particularly the variety of secularization that accommodates the presence of original and true religiosity in the public and political sphere. Moreover, the experiences of soft secular democracy in the West and several Muslim nations (Indonesia and Turkey) have demonstrated that secularization does not necessarily lead to the exclusion of religious holistic beliefs including that of Islam being Deen and duniya. Indeed, religious belief and forms of spirituality can and have persisted within the negotiated and reconciled processes of state secularization of today’s post-modern era.

Moreover, the experience of soft secularization demonstrates that the rigid ‘wall of separation’ between religion and the state in France and Kemalist Turkey had been indeed excessive to the extreme, unnecessary and counterproductive in nation‐building in post-modern terms. By contrast, the 21st century Indonesian and Turkish experience thus far demonstrates that democratic institutions and reformative processes, a functioning state and economy and vibrant civil society can certainly fortify the soft secularization in the Muslim majority countries. Reformist Islamic discourse that promotes the harmonization of true Islam and secular democracy also energizes passive secularization. [1]

The reformist Islamic discourse today allows Muslims to support the inclusive secular state [2] and supports a post‐Islamist( post-fundamentalist) religious secularization that incorporates the sacred within the framework of the secular state exemplified by the prophet’s compact of Medina and his own practice of democracy. This shift towards a post‐Islamist (post-fundamentalist) secularity is not only unique to the Muslim World but also reflective of a global religiosity that is strongly characterized by universalism, multiplicity and plurality. Making sense of this global religiosity, prominent scholars of religion and society have observed worldwide that secularization and religiosity are much more complex, pluralistic and intertwined than commonly assumed. Thus, the “attempt to establish a rigid wall of separation between ‘religion’ and ‘politics’ is both unjustified and counterproductive for democracy itself...”, as curtailing the free exercise of the civil and political rights of religious citizens will infringe on the fabric of democratic civil society. [3]

Interestingly, the Islamic state model of modern day has been discredited by the theological contradictions, governance failures, political repression and economic record of Islamic states such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Prominent reformist scholars and Islamic intellectuals have rejected the Islamic state for overly politicizing Islam and upholding authoritarian political structures that serve the interests of ruling elites (military and civilian). Echoing the critics of authoritarian secular states, they call for a separation of religion from the control of state institutions. The Islamic state and authoritarian secular state models appear to have lost much of their appeal in contrast to the soft secular democratic state model, which is gaining a tremendous political attraction in the Muslim World slowly but surely. This is demonstrated by the sustainability of Indonesian’s inclusive secular constitutional moorings despite ongoing challenges by Islamists; electoral successes and governance credibility of the JDP government that have allowed it to cautiously reconfigure Turkey’s Kemalist and assertive secular state; political moderation of Islamist parties such as Malaysia’s PAS and ongoing protest movements fuelling the ‘Arab Spring’.

Instead of the polarizing Islamic state agenda commonly touted in the 1980s and 1990s, many Islamist parties and movements have begun to focus on good governance, democracy and economic development and appear willing to work within the framework of the soft secular democratic state – an inclusive and pluralistic framework acceptable to majorities in Muslim‐ majority countries. Endorsing the JDP’s political model, the leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Nahda Party Rachid Ghannouchi noted in an interview with the Financial Times (18 January, 2011) that “Our thought is similar to that of the JDP in Turkey, currently in government...there have been many changes to the Muslim World, democratic thought has spread and Islamists have realized the danger of dictatorships and the benefits of democracy and they have also realized the harm of Islamic regimes that are not democratic”.

[1]. Abdullah An Naim, ‘The Interdependence of Religion, Secularism and Human Rights’, Common Knowledge, 11(1), 2005, p.63‐64.

[2]. Abdullah An Naim, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia, (Cambridge: Harvard Uni. Press, 2008), p.269.
[3]. Jose Casanova, 2006, p.20.

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