When Islamists defend democracy – CSMonitor.com

That says something about the progress in the Middle East that the main Islamist leaders in Iraq and Tunisia are calling for democracy in their Muslim countries. Their public faith in individual rights and freedoms is a welcome counterpoint to the hardening of the Islamist regime in Iran and Afghanistan.

In Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a very influential religious authority, called on voters to shed their apathy and participate “consciously and responsibly” in the crucial October 10 legislative elections. previous parliaments and the governments that emanate from them will be repeated, ”he said on September 29, referring to political leaders elected after the 2003 US-led invasion that implanted democracy in Iraq.

The election, he added, is the best way for Iraq to “reach a future, hopefully better than the past, and one through which the risk of falling into the abyss of chaos and destruction. the political impasse will be avoided “.

Although Mr Sistani does not support parties or candidates, he advised voters to choose a candidate in their constituency who is “the most honest, who is interested in the sovereignty, security and prosperity of Iraq.” “. His reference to “sovereignty” may be a call to rid Iraq of foreign influence, especially that of Iran and the United States.

In Tunisia, where a democracy emerged during the Arab Spring of 2011, the main Islamist party, Ennahda, has launched calls to reverse President Kais Saied’s takeover. In July, the former law professor suspended parliament and seized almost total power, saying the government was at a political stalemate. Although he promised his actions were temporary, he has since suppressed the opposition and increased his powers. Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi, who is Tunisia’s main Islamist politician and speaker of parliament, said the president had effectively “annulled the constitution”.

On September 29, Ennahda called on all political and civil society groups to “defend representative democracy” through “all forms of peaceful struggle”. On October 1, police barred dozens of MPs from entering the legislature.

Many people in the Middle East who live under an authoritarian or strict Islamic ruler are probably aware of these hopeful calls for democracy by Islamist leaders in Iraq and Tunisia. Reconcile democracy and Sharia (Islamic law) is not always easy. But at least two countries are showing signs of hope that are worth watching.

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