Friday, February 20, 2015

Blog #3: Morocco, Islamism, and a Growing Democracy

"Islamism" doesn't exactly have the nicest connotation with people of Western ideals, and unfortunately it may be due to an intolerance that has come about because of what has been shown in media and what's been left out. 

However, there is a silver lining in North Africa that will hopefully take a firmer grip among the more depraved countries in the region and in the Middle East. Last week the Woodrow Wilson Center hosted a discussion on Islamism in the Middle East and in North Africa, and although the general consensus was that the state of affairs was not pleasant, the Wilson Center panel shed light on Islamist movement in Tunisia and Morocco. The Center's senior scholar David Ottaway argued the pragmatism of the Islamist movements in Northwest Africa, with the exception of Libya, and their open-mindedness to take part in political affairs. In Tunisia, the Ennahda party shed its power after it lost to the Tunisian secular party leader Nidaa Tounes in the Fall 2014 parliamentary elections. In Morocco, the Islamist PJD party, while still holding reign, has swayed to abide by the country's political process. 

The Center's panel during the discussion pointed out that this was the process of coexistence; the party's rise to power has led the other political parties to pursue their own identities and bring about more secular policies, and so far it has been smooth sailing. The Istiqlal party of Tunisia is now moving away from the pan-Arabist party of the independence movement, to a more modernized agenda. Should this continue to work, it will give rise to a less ignorant and more diverse and strengthening meetings about Morocco's coming age of democracy and politics. The PJD hasn't stopped just there; the party has begun to focus its Islamist ambitions into a good, trustworthy political outlet. Instead of mirroring any violent Islamism in the Middle East, the PJD uses a more smooth approach, placing the development of Morocco first instead of promoting a religious state. 

Speaking as a student of religion as well as someone who has had firsthand exposure to Westernized opinions of Islamism, I find there to be much more significance in this. Islamist groups find fault with most democratic ideals, so for the PJD party to simply accept its country's wishes to follow democracy is a very big step forward in stabilizing the political systems in North Africa and the Middle East. Should this "coexistence" keep working, Islamism may finally be presented to the world in a much less radical light, and the renewal and restoration of corrupted economies and government in the Middle East may be triggered because of this wave of political change.

Read the article here:
Salwa Majeed
Thursday, February 2015

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