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How come that some Islamists put their moral asset at stake for elusive political gains

Mohammed Lahlal /How come that some Islamists put their moral asset at stake for elusive political gains

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How come that some Islamists put their moral asset at stake for elusive political gains?

By: Mohammed Lahlal

“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others” quoted by Groucho Marx, an American comedian. This quote is squarely pertinent to many politicians in the Arab world who shamelessly dare address the public with one thing and its opposite, and they might be castigated for their hypocrisy, but they would come the next day with the same hollow rhetoric filled with pledges and wishes for a better future. For many career politicians, there is no such morality in politics, all means are legitimate to justify the ends. Philosophers have long discussed the relationship between politics and morality, but in this article my focus is on how come that some Islamists drift away with the trend of unethical practices on the pretext of serving the interest of the public and the desire to cohere with the logic of the political spectrum.

Islamists’ debut

Before Islamists made their appearance in the official political arena, they were distinguished as embracing morality and integrity which they continuously professed in their discourse. The educational dimension was present in their agenda to effect fundamental change in people’s conduct and make the public revive the very foundation of their faith. People expected from Islamists to be models in voicing the truth, being transparent, advocating basic human rights, struggling for social, economic and political justice, and responding to people’s grievances, alongside crafting educational policies to heal the ethical decay of our Muslim societies. This is how they introduced themselves to the crowds, and these are the public’s high expectations.

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Misreading the comfort zone

Most Islamist groups found in the democratic process the only way to put into effect their theories of incremental reform and change. So, they engaged in the political game as it was designed by the existing power and they accepted to keep to the pre-set unfair rules, and adopted the methods of other political parties in organization, campaigning and elections and tried to separate politics from Da’wa – the educational part of their project for reform. At the beginning, they were on the margin of opposition, and would rail criticism against government policies in different fields, and they occasionally expressed their anger when it comes to bills to be passed at the parliament at odds with the Islamic principles. Opposition was a comfort zone which gave them more impetus to move ahead to seek governing itself. And little by little, the moral side of the Islamists’ identity began to recede at such a point you would not make difference between the Islamist party and all the other parties engaged. Islamists were caught up in a dilemma of how to keep up their activism and at the same time maintain their moral credentials.

Moral downfall

The Islamists engaged in the existing pollical game were supposedly aware that the ground for governing would not be not paved and it would be an extremely difficult task, particularly when their opponents, namely the deep state and anti-Islamic parties, bluntly declared their intention to make it hard for them as they hold the real power in most Arab countries and monopolize the resources needed for a government to function, not to mention the interference of external states, enemies of “political Islam”. Little by little, Islamists “in power” began to realize they were under extreme pressure to meet people’s needs and expectations, and failure was looming large as they were pushed into the corner. Being under the pressure, they began to promote a modified discourse talking about constraints and they subsequently adopted unpopular policies that targeted more the purchasing power of the lower and middle class and they demonstrated unusual impotence to face corruption and authoritarianism. And instead of aligning with the masses by being more transparent and honest, they used different ways to justify their failure and hide the truth from the public. The media, either manipulated by agents of corruption or being independent, spared nothing to expose the Islamists’ weakness, blunders and moral contradictions. In most Arab countries, Islamist groups misread the political, social and psychological environment they were engaged in; they were mainly driven by emotional enthusiasm and the long-dreamed desire to govern, underestimating the existing power dynamics.

To conclude, we can say that the moral downfall of Islamists in the Arab world is more detrimental than the political failure. When the Islamic movement loses its credibility as a morally trustworthy vanguard of reform and change and it does not learn from past experiences and ignore the public’s discontentment, and when the Islamic movement neglects its prime task of educating people and renewing faith in hearts alongside struggling for justice, it will then be hard to win people’s trust and introduce the movement as the ultimate moral and political haven for the crowds.

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