The Mirage of Political Islam

(New York Times) Mustapha Tlili - The U.S. administration's ill-advised support of Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia is clearly a strategic error stemming from a failure to grasp the nature of political Islam. At root, this misjudgment lies in the belief that Islamists were ever the legitimate voice of Islam. During the decades of dictatorship in the Arab world, political Islamists marketed themselves in the West as "moderate" movements that sought to reconcile Islam with democracy. In reality, they were proponents of a messianic ideology in which the fundamental tenet is to implement God's will on earth. While they succeeded in disguising their true intentions in talks at Chatham House or the Council on Foreign Relations, they could not possibly provide the partner America needed. The administration bought into the fallacy of "moderate" political Islam. Regrettably, the U.S. failed to recognize the need to strengthen the Muslim world's secular democratic parties and empower their supporters, who want to build a society based on tolerance, moderation, the rule of law, women's rights and constitutional freedoms. It took just a year for the incompetence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to reveal itself (the fall of Ennahda in Tunisia took longer). Washington must acknowledge the new reality, and engage with the Sissi government in Egypt and with Tunisia's secular political parties. America should help, not hinder, the secular democrats of the Muslim world. The writer, a research scholar at New York University, is the founder and director of the NYU Center for Dialogues: Islamic World - U.S. - the West.

2014-06-06 00:00:00

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