In Tunisia, Islamist Victory Scores Big for Democracy

Islamism has become a democratic force: Noah Feldman
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Oct 31, 2011 1:35 PM CDT
Tunisian volunteers check the number of voters on the electoral lists in Ariana, Tunisia, Monday Oct. 24, 2011, during counting operations following Sunday's first free election in the history of Tunisia....   (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

(Newser) – At first glance, it might seem that Islamists’ success in Tunisia’s election is a blow for democracy because the revolution that led to the election was secular. But the truth is that “the first leaders of a revolution are rarely a perfect sample of the broader population that gets behind them,” writes Noah Feldman for Bloomberg. Islam is key to many Tunisians’ “personal and political identities”; what's more, leading Islamists long worked against the old regime.

The secularists who led the movement have been true democrats, allowing an election despite the victory of “social forces they don’t fully trust.” Meanwhile, over the past two decades, “mainstream political Islam has undergone an extraordinary democratic transformation” by “combining pragmatism and principle,” Feldman writes. Slowly, “more and more political Islamists have become democrats”—and it’s happened “in the very years when radical jihadism threatened Islamic democrats with condemnation and murder.” For global democracy, “this is a victory of historic proportions.” Click through for the full column.

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