Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Morocco And The Islamic Movements

By Mohammad el-Ashab
What if the Justice and Charity group in Morocco was to turn into a political party? The reason for the question is that its leaders and supporters are involved in politics by taking stands and committing to the ethics of political work, like any opposition party. But at the same time, they are barricading themselves outside the political game all the while brandishing the banner of preaching and guidance and the chants of religious calls for reform.
Regardless of whether this choice is a convincing one for those who want Sheikh Abdel Salam Yassine; or whether this choice is warranted in order to achieve their incorporation into the legitimate structure of political work; or whether this choice requires additional efforts of mutual normalization between the state and the group, the political developments witnessed by Morocco – when it comes to the openness to Islamic movements – have shown a high level of flexibility. This is expressed through the fact that the Justice and Development Islamic party is now a major pillar of the political scene’s equations. No other party seems to have faced the battles and hardships that the Islamists of the Justice and Development party have faced. However, this has caused the latter to become even more convinced that their real position is at the heart of the political game rather than on the outside or at the margins. What is interesting is that the leader of the Islamic party, Abdel Ilah Benkiran, is the one who had asked the Justice and Charity group to make a choice between legitimate political work or proceeding with the confrontation. This is evidenced by the fact that his party does not see the group as a competitor. Hence, this is an indication to the acceptance of pluralism among the Islamic movements themselves, and this will definitely apply to the entire political horizon in the event that the group’s view of itself and of the others changes, and in the event that the others’ view of it changes as well.
The new constitution has perhaps helped the current political figures, or those figures that might soon be joining the present structure, in finding the road that fits the new distribution of roles and authorities. Before starting to amend the parties’ law by banning their formation on the basis of religion, race, or tribe, before the democratization of the partisan mechanisms, and before the parties can benefit from not being exposed to bans or to suspension except through legal rulings, they will have to practice a sufficient level of self-criticism in order for their new tasks to be aligned with their organizational reality.
And because the opposition has obtained, in light of the new constitution, a role that almost resembles that of the shadow government of the minority’s executive apparatus, the door is now open for people to join if they think that they have the necessary qualifications to help in building the phase following the passing of the constitution. This concerns the competitors for the top positions in the upcoming legislative elections, or those who have opted for the opposition positions.
The signs provided by the new constitution go beyond the legal framework of the constitutional document that organizes the relations and authorities on a separate and balanced basis. They rather extend to the political dimensions since this is the first time where the outcomes of the ballot boxes have been linked to honesty, transparency, and freedom. Thus, many flaws that used to be considered part of the disadvantages of elections have been removed and the ball is now in the field of the partisan groups. The fact that the settling of the disputes between the state and the parties is now the jurisdiction of the state is encouraging the pumping of new blood.
It is not important whether the contents of the new constitution, which will become active soon, have convinced all the different sides. This is not the first time where some forces choose boycott. Political experiences indicate that the national unity, the strongest opposition party, has been addicted to boycotting constitutions for more than three decades. Then, under the name of the Socialist Union, it found itself racing time in order to rebuild the lost trust between the regime and the opposition. Its vote for the amended constitution of 1996 constituted the keyword that moved it to the government’s side.
The Justice and Charity group has decided to boycott the new constitution. The group is not a party but it did act with a political mentality. Who knows, maybe a time will come when it will become a party like all the other partners. Had the masses of former opponents been asked whether they had ever thought of being in charge of the government, then surprise would have been the best answer. However, this feeling is not part of political work, which is as variable as the seasons of the year.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 05/07/2011

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