‘Let Europe Not Fear Political Islam,’ Says Archbishop Of Tunis


“Right now, if you could hold free and democratic elections in every Arab country Islamic inspired parties would win as has happened in Tunisia and as will probably happen in Egypt, but this should not lead to fears and concerns,” said the Archbishop of Tunis, Monsignor Maroun Elias Lahham to MISNA.

“Ennahda won because for years it has represented the only real opposition to the regime of Ben Ali, seeing as it had been persecuted for this reason and also because it made itself the bearer of values ​​felt by all,” the Archbishop added.

According to the Archbishop, Ennahda’s victory was a simple recipe that has been accompanied by a good campaign, an organization that has experienced and been able to rely on some external factors.

“The defeat of secular parties and the PDP, in particular, which paid the price for maintaining some ‘uncomfortable’ relationships with personalities from the old regime. Paradoxically, then, many secular minded people have chosen Ennahda because this has touched the right chords for tthat part of the voters that shares little with the party platform,” according to the Archbishop, who added that, “On the other hand, no one, including the leaders of Ennahda, had expected such a success, a victory by more than 40% of the votes, when all the predictions gave 20-30% at most.”

Another factor that made clear the defeat of the secular parties was determined by the dispersion of the vote in many small parties which now have just one or two seats, he added.

The vote is laden with symbols Tunisia: It was the first country to revolt against decades of his regime, a dictatorship disguised as democracy or otherwise accepted by the West. Tunisia was also the first country in the so-called Arab Spring to take a process of transition.

“I think that even in Egypt, the Islamic parties will impose themselves in elections,” the Archbishop of Tunis said, “and if one day they vote in Libya, there would probably be the same scenario. The point is not, however, that Islam governs, rather what kind of Islam.”

In the Archbishop’s opinion, “Tunisian Islam is not Sudanese Islam, it is not Iranian nor is it Egyptian. Probably in Egypt, the situation would be different, but there is something new that whichever party or coalition governs must now go to take into account: the street has shown that it is capable of rebelling against dictatorship and those who fail to respect the mechanisms of democracy will likely face the same end. And it is this challenge which now faces Tunisia, although the vote in Egypt at the regional level can definitely be considered more important. ”

“Europe must have a new and different approach to the realities that are taking shape in the southern shore of the Mediterranean: just as it has had parties of Christian inspiration, it must not place conditions that compromise governments featuring parties of an Islamic inspiration. Islam can be democratic and Ennahda has been asked to demonstrate it,” the Archbishop said.


MISNA, or the Missionary International Service News Agency, provides daily news ‘from, about and for’ the 'world’s Souths', not just in the geographical sense, since December 1997.

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