Two sides of political Islam

05 December 2011

Moderate Islamist parties should not be confused with hardliners. Future governments that fail to meet the demands of their people risk facing further uprisings

North Africa has a new political landscape, one dominated by moderate Islamist parties. When the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt unfolded, the hope for democracy was as potent as ever, but now that Islamists have taken centre stage, it has been replaced with concern and worry.

This should not be the case. For the first time, Tunisians, Egyptians, Moroccans have been able to take part in free elections and the victory of Islamist parties should be celebrated as the choice of the population.

Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisia’s Ennahda and Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD) all have one task at hand, to weed out corruption and create jobs. Ultimately, all of these new governments whether Islamist or secular, will have to focus on improving their economies.

It would be a struggle for any new government, but particularly so for ones that has no history or experience in power.

The fall in tourism, a major contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) in Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco has had a devastating impact this year. Fear of an Islamic-style rule where alcohol is banned and women are forced to cover up will further affect the tourism sector.

The situation in Egypt may be a bit more troublesome, with the Salafists coming second in the polls. It is likely they will draw the FJP towards a more conservative line.

The only reason these parties have been elected is because of the revolutions earlier this year that gave power back to the people.

Any future government that fails to meet the demands of the people now risks similar uprisings. This should be the most worrying threat for the rest of the world.

More revolutions will reduce business activity and a lack of economic growth will push countries to the brink of devastation. This threat should be enough to keep the Islamists on a moderate line if they are to retain power.

The Islamist economic model

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