Tunisia: Reinventing Democracy in the 21st Century
AbstractThis study posits that democracy is possible in Muslim nations and uses Tunisia as a case study. Unique factors along the nation’s historical arc are isolated and identified as moderating variables which impress upon political, cultural, and societal dimensions and culminate into a complimentary platform for the democratic experiment. Along the historical trajectory explored time, social and political heritage, and particularities germane to Tunisia define the ideals to which Tunisians have ascribed. Islam is significantly important in all facets of life, however, in Tunisia’s case political openness, and a quest for modernity has permitted the political and the religious to coexists in an exclusive arrangement. Via societal models, the study explores areas for alignment between Tunisia and the West. The religious axis (of the West and Tunisia) when objectively drawn reveals similarities. Democracy as a political construct in Tunisia, when juxtaposed against the Ben Ali era, becomes problematic. The values of democracy are stagnated in an authoritarian system. Islam, the focus of the West as the antithesis to democracy, emerges in the study posing no significant threat to democracy’s advancement. Authoritarian values pose a greater threat as these erode basic democratic principles. Tunisia demonstrates that religion is not the prima facie factor hindering democracy’s advancement in Muslim nations and provides tangible proof that Islam and democracy are compatible. The study deconstructs and explores the elements critical to democracy’s success in Tunisia. Tunisia can be a positive democratic model for many Muslim nations.
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