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Separating Islam from Political Islam:The Case of Morocco
Separating Islam from Political Islam:The Case of Morocco
THE BLENDING OF PROSELYTIZING WITH POLITICS comprises one of the foremost dilemmas facing Islamist movements throughout the world.
Thursday, October 4,2007 22:21
by HUSSAM TAMAM Arab Insight

THE BLENDING OF PROSELYTIZING WITH POLITICS comprises one of the foremost dilemmas facing Islamist movements throughout the world.
 The phenomenon has caused considerable debate and discussion among political forces who resent the Islamists’ monopolization and use of the religion card.
 Under the banner of Islam, some Islamist movements are able to gain an immense edge in the political arena, despite having no other qualifications.
 Other, more missionary Islamist groups, have also struggled to define the fine line between religion and politics.
 In some cases, religiously-inspired activities have been vulnerable to restrictions and security clampdowns on the grounds that they form a back door through which political Islamists practice their politics.
  By analyzing past political elections, we can see examples of how some Islamists tried to encourage voters to use religion as a deciding factor when they cast their ballots.
 The most recent example was the Egyptian parliamentary elections, in which religion exercised a strong presense.
 Members of the Muslim Brotherhood constituted a large portion of the candidate pool and won one-fifth of the seats in parliament; they used an unprecedented amount of campaign slogans and speeches heavily dominated by religious symbols and rhetoric.
  It is not the intent of this article to enter the interminable debate over the mixture of religion with politics, nor is it an attempt to argue against or for the right of Islamic forces to manifest their religious identity in the course of political competition.
 However, I would like to use the example of two organizations in Morocco that highlight the fine line between religion and politics and illustrate the way a distinction can be made between the two within an Islamist movement.
 It also illustrates how both a political movement and a religious movement can become dominant forces within an Islamic society without one overstepping the boundaries of the other.
  The Moroccan Unification and Reform Movement (MUR) is an Islamic missionary organization affiliated with the Justice and Development Party (PJD), though the groups are independent from one another.
 MUR is the largest of all the Islamist factions that have agreed to participate in and adhere to the rules of the political process in Morocco, unlike the Justice and Benevolence Society, which is organizationally stronger and has a wider following, but boycotts the Moroccan political order in its entirety.
  The MUR was founded approximately 10 years before a number of Islamist forces, notably the Islamic Future League and the Reform and Renovation Society, came together for a process of ideological introspection, triggered by the wave of political violence in the 1970s involving some of their members.
 After the meeting, the MUR became their way of officially repairing their rupture with the militant approach of Al-Chabiba Al-Islamiya (the Islamic Youth Society) and showing their dedication toward peaceful political action.
 In their first attempt to legitimize the organization within the political system, they sought to establish themselves as a political party called the National Renovation Party; however, the government rejected their application.
 Then, in 1996, the group’s leaders made a historical pact with Dr.
 Abdelkrim al-Khatib, the leader of the Popular Democratic and Constitutional Movement (MPDC).
 The MPDC was restructured to incorporate MUR members and renamed the Justice and Development Party (PJD).
 Although the MUR and the MPDC disagreed over the extent of their relationship and its impact on the political policy of the MPDC, they did agree to defer deliberations over the problem of blending proselytizing and politics until after the 1997 parliamentary elections.
 In 1998, inspired by its electoral successes, the MUR movement began to develop a more clear perception of its relationship with the PJD.
 In the process, MUR leaders began to show their inclination for keeping the dissemination of their beliefs, morals, and the general shaping of society as their main functions, and to defer to the party as the organizational framework for the pursuit of political affairs.
 After the Casablanca bombings on May 16, 2003, some liberal members with-in the PJD partially blamed the MUR for helping to give rise to terrorism.
 As a response, MUR leaders urgently began to reassess the influence of religion within the movement and the relationship between Islam and politics within the party.
 MUR leaders concluded that they wanted a greater distinction between the two, a systematic differentiation between Islamist missionary action and political action.
 It was decided that this process would be engineered politically by PJD General- Secretary Saadedine Othmani and organizationally by MUR leader Mohammed al-Hamdawi.
 This new strategic orientation was ideologically and theoretically couched in a document called “Political Participation and the Relationship Between the Movement [MUR] and the Party [PJD].
” The document had been the subject of extensive deliberations within MUR since 2003 and was unofficially released in 2006.
 Based on knowledge of the central concepts of the new orientation and interviews with several of its architects, the differentiation between religious and political advocacy within the movement has matured considerably at the theoretical level.
 Consequently, there are strong indications that the theory has taken root within the movement and put into action.
 In the course of investigating this pioneering experiment on the part of an Islamist movement, I met with Dr.
 Mohammed Yatim, both a prodigious scholar and an ardent political activist.
 He serves as the deputy chairman of the MUR and is a member of the general-secretariat of the PJD.
 To a considerable extent, Yatim serves as the chief theorist for both organizations and is the person largely responsible for laying the philosophical foundations for the move toward demarking the boundaries between his movement’s religious mission and the political spheres in which it acts.
 He has authored numerous scholastic studies and articles including: Islamic Action and Approach to Civilizational Change and The Islamist Movement: Between Proselytism and Politics.
 Yatim states that because his movement is grounded on the principle of the allencompassing nature of Islam, it strives to be equally comprehensive in its aims.
 It seeks, for example, to participate in the realization of Islamic tenets concerning the individual, the family, the community, the state and the Islamic nation.
 It also seeks to contribute to the shaping of society as a whole.
 However, this comprehensiveness has not blinded the movement to the fact that it is only one of many contributors to the establishment of an Islamic state.
 In addition, as Yatim’s movement regards Morocco as an Islamic state with a vast record of historic achievements for the advancement of Islam, he presents the movement as only a compliment – not an alternative – to other experiences.
  The MUR’s fields of operation are as diverse as its mission is broad: it works with individuals and with groups, engages in political, economic, and social work, as well as cultural and intellectual activities.
 In fact, it operates in nearly the entire gamut of intersections between human activities and Islam.
 The diversity of the movement’s activities and the breadth of its goals necessitates separation between what Yatim calls the primary functions of the movement (proselytism, inculcation of values, moral formation) and what he refers to as specialized activities (all other activities).
 The primary functions are those that define the movement itself – its calling and its raison d’être – and are what allows the movement to cooperate with all like-minded entities, whether they be the state or other movements and influential bodies.
 The specialized activities, by contrast, are those that reside outside the scope of the movement’s core religious calling.
 They include, for example, involvement in politics, social work (philanthropic societies), and workers’ rights advocacy.
 While operating within the ideological framework of the movement, these activities must be organizationally distinct.
 Yatim defined the relationship between the MUR (embodying the pursuit of the movement’s primary functions) and the PJD (which articulates its specific political function) in a single sentence: the two “converge in frame of reference and complement each other but are functionally separate.
” MUR leader Mohammed al-Hamdawi views the relationship between his movement and the PJD in similar terms.
 He sees it as a partnership between two independent institutions, or a strategic collaboration between an Islamic missionary movement and a political party.
 Both the movement and the political Party share the same ideological frame of reference, but operate differently at the structural level.
 To help the public understand this relationship, he compares it to a similar situation among environmentalists.
 All environmentalists share the same overarching goal: to protect and conserve the environment.
 However, on an organizational level, all function in different ways.
 Some organizations focus on advocacy, where-as others work on a more political level.
 Yet others focus on only certain aspects of conservation – wildlife or climate, etc.
 In the same way, the MUR and the PJD are structurally different yet dedicated to a common endeavor: the establishment of the Islamic state.


 The concept in practice

In spite of the fact that 80 percent of PJD members are also MUR members – representing some 30 percent of its active membership – MUR leaders have been keen on sustaining a total separation between the movement and the party at the administrative level.
 Current MUR leader Mohammed al-Hamdawi was a PJD member, but resigned his membership when elected as chief of the MUR.
 Explaining his decision to field himself as MUR leader, al-Hamdawi said that he wanted both the MUR and the PJD to have modern leadership, as previously the movement’s leadership consisted of male elders and leaders with theological backgrounds, whereas al-Hamdawi was a student of engineering.
 He felt that if he was going to serve in the MUR leadership, it was necessary to resign from the party so as to reaffirm the party’s independence from the movement.
 In a similar spirit, the head of the PJD, Saadeddine al-Othmani, was not considered a candidate for the MUR’s executive board (the movement’s highest authority) even though he remained a member of the movement’s elected Shura Council.
 The movement now devotes itself to the administration of its subsidiary institutions, in a manner similar to other civil society organizations, and its directives are considered binding only within the realm of these institutions’ activities.
 On political orientation and positions, the PJD takes precedence over the MUR and the movement’s leaders ask that members who also are members of the PJD defer to the party’s hierarchical frameworks for political guidance.
 The PJD also has its own autonomous leadership (embodied in the Shura Council and an executive bureau), and its own electoral processes for selecting and regulating this leadership.
 The most the movement involves itself in the activities of the party is when it holds general discussions of political matters in MUR Shura Council meetings, though it refrains from intervening in the party’s general policies.
 Leadership from neither party is obligated to the other.
 In order to affirm their independence even further and to impress its membership, the MUR newspaper frequently publishes official letters to the PJD general-secretary, illustrating the separation between the two parties.
 In addition, the MUR opposes religious sloganeering in political party activity.
  It fears that its mission will benefit from politics in the long run but that it will be jeopardized by direct involvement in daily politics.
 Interestingly, al-Hamdawi also believes that Islamic political action will eventually subside in the long run, not necessarily out of an inherent problem of its own, but as a consequence of the laws of social evolution and the logic of democracy.
 As al-Hamdawi put it, “In the most advanced democracies, a political platform lasts no more than one or two terms, after which it recedes and yields to an alternative.
” During the last Egyptianparliamentary election – in which religious sloganeering was ubiquitous – the MUR mouthpiece, Al-Tajdid, featured several commentaries by one of the movement’s leaders Bilal al-Talidi, criticizing the campaign slogan, “Islam is the solution.
” MUR’s motto is, “I want to reform what I can,” which is amplified by the subsidiary motto defining the MUR as “An Islamic renewal drive to participate in the establishment of faith and the reform of society.
” The PJD motto, “Authenticity, Development and Justice,” is devoid of any Islamic symbolism or plea to religious sentiments.


 On formative and acculturation programs

 A clear separation between the movement and the party also necessitated a level of differentiation between their respective formative and acculturation programs, as dictated by the nature of each institution.
 In fact, the differentiation begins at the level of membership qualifications.
 Whereas the MUR strictly adheres to the character requirements of its members (members must adhere to certain codes of rectitude and have no record or even suspicion of indulging in prohibited substances or vices), the PJD is relatively flexible in this regard, as long as members adhere to the political positions and general political outlook of the party.
 The two organizations also differ in internal promotion practices and disciplinary action against members who fail to adhere to the codes of either the movement or the party.
 For example, a member may be expelled from the PJD for political reasons but still remain a member of the MUR, which is concerned solely with the ethical problems directly related to its members’ commitment to the movement and its moral codes.
 An illustrative example of the constitutional separation was seen during a parliamentary election in which the PJD participated.
 When MUR leaders learned that a PJD candidate, who was simultaneously a member of the MUR, was accused of purchasing votes to win the election, the movement conducted an extensive internal investigation, ending with the revocation of the candidate’s membership in the movement for having breached the requirements of his affiliation.
 The entire procedure took place with no consultation or information from PJD leaders.
 Only afterwards did MUR leaders inform PJD leadership of their decision, though these leaders had no expectations that their PJD counterparts would take similar action.
 In fact, they did not anticipate a response from the party at all.
 The separation of the two groups manifests itself in all the formative programs organized by the movement and the party.
 The movement’s programs are designed for the advancement of its religious and cultural mission by engaging in activities such as religious education, sermons and public meetings.
 Political mobilization is not conducted through the movement’s structures and activities.
 The MUR does not specifically address or organize special activities for its members who are involved in politics.
 Rather, it is determined to keep its proselytizing, rectifying and educational mission addressed to the public at large.


 On guarantees for conformity

 Naturally, some circles within both the MUR and the PJD leadership believe that mutual independence could eventually lead the organizations into conflict with one another.
 This anxiety is particularly strong among activists who are dedicated to the dissemination of Islam and fear the effects of the dictates of politics.
 This concern gave rise to considerable discussion over whether certain measures should be taken to ensure that the party defers to the ideological guidance of the movement.
 Ultimately, however, opinion prevailed against such measures.
 Not only would they be impractical to implement, but, more importantly, the very notion of regulatory mechanisms to safeguard the moral authority of the movement runs counter to the principle of independence and, in practice, would hamper the party’s organizational and political efficacy.
 The movement decided that there can be no institutionalized guarantees to regulate party conformity to the movement and that the only guarantee for such conformity resided in the nature of the party’s ideological commitments.

 The relationship with other Islamic movements

 The strategy of separation between proselytism and politics has proved helpful in promoting the movement’s relationships with other Islamic entities.
 Religious activity in Morocco engages a broad and diverse range of players, from governmental institutions, such as the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) and Islamic Affairs, its subsidiary agencies and academic councils, to nongovernmental entities, such as the Sufi orders and other Islamist groups, especially the Justice and Benevolence Society – the largest Islamist organization in Morocco.
 Operating under the principle that they are only one of many contributors to the establishment of Islam, the MUR is prepared to cooperate with other groups who share their dedication to the faith, regardless of their political outlooks or positions.
 Thus, the movement welcomed the Ministry of Awqaf’s project for restructuring religious activity in Morocco on the basis of common denominators of Islamic thought.
 The movement officially praised the government’s initiative to restructure religious activity, “as opposed to uprooting it,” and regarded the initiative as a step forward for Islam and one that required support from all Islamist organizations.
 Accordingly, MUR acted as a partner with the state in this endeavor and began to cooperate with the Ministry of Awqaf toward the realization of its objectives.
 Indeed, many of the members of the ministry’s higher academic councils, which are among the most important bodies engaged in this project, are MUR members.
 For example, MUR members Ezzeddine al-Tawfiq, Mohammed al-Roki and Farid al-Ansari (recently resigned) are also the ministry’s top supervisors, overseeing the training of preachers, and Al-Abadi Ahmed, the ministry’s director of Islamic Affairs, had previously been a MUR leader.
 Through its use of media outlets, the MUR also actively supports the state’s religious initiative.
 The MUR mouthpiece, Al-Tajdid, allocates considerable space to covering the news of the ministry’s academic councils and praises their achievements and the efforts of their staff.
 At the nongovernmental level, the MUR has made no secret of its differences with its chief competitor,the Justice and Benevolence Society, over such crucial issues as recognizing the legitimacy of the Moroccan political system and working within it, and over the broader, more visionary questions that inform their respective positions on these issues.
 Nevertheless, MUR leaders have resolved to transcend the logic of ostracism and antagonism and instead have accepted to work with groups even though there are certain areas they might not be in total agreement with, such as their support for the Palestinian and Iraqi resistance movements.
 In addition, the MUR does not fear the awkward repercussions it may receive from working with a group that is officially banned and repressed.
 Indeed, the relationship between the MUR and other Islamist organizations illustrates the principle of separation between the MUR and the PJD.
 The MUR has voiced its concern over actions the government has taken against the Justice and Benevolence Society – the detentions and the closures of its headquarters and “open door” centers for communicating with the public – and it has issued a formal statement condemning what it deems an excess of censorship.
 Moreover, it has lent its newspaper to the society – which is under siege by the rest of the media – as a forum for expressing their points of view, as exemplified by the interview the newspaper held with a spokesman for the Justice and Benevolence Society, Fathallah Arslan.
 The party, on the other hand, took a more pragmatic approach.
 As the PJD will likely take part in forming the next state government, they opted to remain silent on the subject, unwilling to antagonize the regime in hopes of retaining their continued confidence.
 Thus, not only has the PJD not issued a formal comment on the arrests of the Justice and Benevolence Islamists when pressed by media representatives in Tangiers, PJD Secretary-General Saadeddine al-Othmani stated that the society’s “open-door advisory councils” were illegal because they had not been approved by the authorities.
 In other words, his position toward his fellow “brethren” Islamists was influenced by political calculations and which made the MUR put these calculations before their principles.
 The logic of differentiating between proselytism and politics may also be the reason for the marked change in the MUR’s relations with Moroccan Sufi orders.
 After years of shunning and opposing the Moroccan Sufi orders, the movement has dropped its barriers and has become open to their points of view.
 To a large extent, this is attributed to the fact that in the process of transforming the movement into a purely Islamic missionary organization rather than a political one, the dynamics of harmony and unison have come to prevail over the dynamics of discord and confrontation.

 Differentiation at the rhetorical, operational and leadership levels

 It is possible to identify three levels at which the differentiation between politics and proselytizing operates:

At the level of discourse

 As a missionary movement, MUR seeks to embrace everyone who has an Islamist outlook, regardless of their political positions or allegiances.
 After all, the Islamist frame of reference can not be reduced to any single political expression or be communicated through a single political discourse.
 Political discourse presumes diversity in opinion, political rivalries, and requires the potential for evolution and change to best suit emerging or changing political interests.
 In contrast, the movement is contingent upon forever adhering to the collective Islamist frame of reference for all who subscribe to it.
 Therefore, the MUR made an unequivocal decision to prohibit its members who are preachers or proselytizers from participating in elections, whether as candidates or as official supporters of candidates.
 It further prohibited MUR leaders from taking part in PJD electoral campaigns on the grounds that the movement should represent an all-embracing Islamist frame of reference that is open to all Moroccans and should not be reduced to supporting a single political party.
 In addition, the decision was meant to protect the MUR from taking an antagonistic stance toward a potential political rival or being subject to the mire of narrow political partisanship.
 On the whole, the movement sought to develop a general, all-encompassing, morally instructive rhetoric that was as distinct as possible, in language and substance, from political rhetoric.
 In addition, the MUR declares no bias except for a set of moral principles and does not allow for the organization to get entangled in direct political attacks.
 It seeks to maintain its focus on issues and ideas as opposed to individuals and institutions.
 In a further move to curtail any overlap between the rhetoric of the movement and that of the party, MUR leaders disassociated Al-Tajdid from the PJD and in turn, the PJD is now in the process of founding a newspaper of its own.
 Both newspapers will have corresponding websites, completely unrelated and independent from one another.

 At the level of operations

 In their latest review of operations, MUR leaders drew distinct lines between the movement and the party.
 They have determined, for example, not to issue statements on specific current affairs, such as the repair of a bridge or irrigation canal, or a political or economic event.
 They will leave the initiative to the party and confine the movement to causes that keep with its character as a civil society organization of which all Moroccans can be a part.
 The MUR is an organization established for the purpose of disseminating Islamic values and shaping the character of the individual and his or her society.
 Such causes should be of a general and moral tenor, such as fighting injustice and unemployment, promoting virtuous behavior and professionalism at work, encouraging loyalty to the nation, and supporting central Arab-Islamic causes in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
 This operational differentiation, however, begs some difficult questions regarding whether Islamist political activists should concern themselves with questions of identity.
 What amount of space should be allocated to identity issues in the party’s discourse? Can identity questions, in fact, become political issues, or are they purely cultural and moral ones that fall within the jurisdiction of the movement? In the opinion of Yatim, “It is in the party’s interests to minimize its involvement in identity politics and to devote itself more to refining its political and instrumental rhetoric.
” Nevertheless, he acknowledges the difficulty of bringing this about in practice.
 Identity questions are still of major concern to the public and determine, to a great extent, the party’s reputation and reach.
 It would therefore not be politically wise for the party to suddenly forsake its attention to such issues.
 He added that the movement may be near a solution to this dilemma in having internalized the principle that it is the party’s responsibility to take direct actions and concrete positions on the immediate concerns and problems of the people, even if identity is one of them.
 He called it the “Prophet Joseph” approach: Joseph presented himself to the Pharaoh not in his capacity as a prophet, but as the man best suited to solve a country’s economic crisis.
 However, some issues are far too intricate and involved to be clearly assigned to the purview of either the movement or the party.
 Take, for example, the censorship of the arts and the government’s role in protecting morals, or the prevention of offenses to public decency, an issue recently brought to the fore by the film Maroc.
 The film caused such an outcry for its sexual explicitness and its offensive portrayal of Moroccan women – which some regarded as an insult to Morocco – that the censors were forced to step in and ban the film.
 On such issues, the movement draws a distinction between matters that have significance to all segments of society versus those that only pertain to a certain segment’s moral or values system, obviating the possibility that they would be trampling the rights of an opposing ideological trend or point of view.
 Also, the party carefully chooses the types of issues it adopts as political causes.
 Perhaps the clearest examples of the application of this distinction can be seen when applied to the questions surrounding the issues of women’s bathing suits and prostitution.
 The former issue is controversial because of the religious sensitivities it arouses among Islamists and conservative Muslims in general; the latter brings to the fore the exploitation of the poor by the phenomena of prostitution rings and the sex trade industry.
 To the MUR, the question of women’s bathing suits falls squarely in the domain of the movement and its educational mission, but it should not be adopted by the party as a political cause.
 As there is a significant secular segment of the public that does not regard such attire as shameful, the issue can not be regarded as a subject of national consensus and, therefore, Islamists do not have the right to impose their moral outlook on others.
 The exploitation of the poor through prostitution, on the other hand, is universally abhorred by all segments of Moroccan society, including the secularist trend.
 Consequently, the party should be allowed to work alongside the movement in fighting this problem and adopting it as a political cause.
 The overlap between the operational realms of the movement and the party is permissible here because it is a clear case in which questions of morals and identity intersect with political affairs and the public’s demand for a solution to a general social problem.
 In all events, Yatim believes that on identity issues, the party must refrain from degrading any group or person publicly and officially – such as labeling its opponents traitors or heretics – and keep the tenor of its language as restrained as possible.
 This is precisely the policy that the PJD adopted on the question of Maroc.
 Rather that descending to outbursts against immorality and decadence, it turned discussion to the efficacy of government agencies in reflecting and implementing the general policies of the state.

 At the level of leadership

 The MUR is in the process of formulating similar criteria for a separation between the leading exponents of a religious missionary movement and those of a political party.
 Essentially, it believes that the former must represent the entire nation and should not endorse one political faction – the PJD in this case – to the exclusion of others.
 However, application of this principle is difficult and, by the admission of MUR members, incomplete.
 It remains the case that most of the leaders of the party are simultaneously situated in the higher leadership positions of the movement.
 To name a few, Abdulllah Benkiran is a member of the PJD National Council and a member of the MUR executive bureau; Abdallah Baha is the party whip in parliament and a member of the MUR executive bureau; Mohammed Yatim is a member of the party’s general secretariat and vice-chairman of the movement; and even PJD Secretary-General Saadeddine al-Othmani is simultaneously a member of the MUR Shura Council.
 Moreover, these leaders’ presence in the movement is almost more important than it is in the party, as the party itself was only recently established and is still in the transitional phase of carving a niche for itself in the political arena.
 Yet, as elusive as a solution to this particular dilemma is at present, it is nevertheless possible to speak of two phases in the relationship between the MUR and the PJD leaderships.
 The first began in 1996, when virtually the entire MUR leadership was engaged in the restructuring of the MPDC following the merge of the two parties.
 This merge yielded the PJD and, in 1997, the entrance of top MUR figures into parliament, elected as PJD representatives.
 The second phase began after the 2002 elections, which established the PJD as Morocco’s second largest political party.
 It was here that the party began to form and cement an organizational hierarchy and disengage itself from the movement in a manner that permitted some de-linkage at the leadership level.
 This de-linkage produced a partnership between the movement and the party which promoted the institutional autonomy of both entities.
 Yatim is realistic, but optimistic.
 Although he believes it impossible to realize an acceptable differentiation of the two organizations at the leadership level before the 2007 elections, he expects that concrete progress in this direction will move forward as soon as the party’s situation becomes more stable.
 He believes that the process will have been completed by the election year 2012.
 Indeed, Yatim further anticipates that eventually the movement’s relationship with the party will be restructured politically, so as to effectively place the party – from the movement’s perspective – on equal footing with other political parties in the state.
 Once the movement’s members begin to see other political parties on par with the PJD, the movement’s decisions for which candidates to support will be based on issues as opposed to individual and institutional bonds.
 In fact, al-Hamdawi observed that the MUR has already begun to move in that direction, illustrated by its support of various actions of non-PJD parliamentarians, the most recent being the proposal by one such member of parliament to close down a number of bars.
 Al-Tajdid offered further support to this trend when it broadened the focus of its coverage of parliamentary events beyond the activities of PJD members to encompass the activities of all MPs whose ideological orientation mirrors or nearly mirrors that of the movement.
 Nevertheless, according to Yatim, the only way this trend will move forward is if the party develops a general strategy for gradually lessening its dependency on the movement.
 In the long run, he believes, this will be in the interests of the movement, as the party currently detracts from the movement by overshadowing its missionary character as accomplishments are immediately credited to the party.
 On the other hand, he realizes that the party sometimes serves to protect the movement.
 This political force counteracts any designs against the movement, such as those that reared their head in the wake of the Casablanca bombings in May 2003, in the form of an unprecedented campaign ultimately aimed at banning and dissolving the movement entirely.
 Finally, the attempt on the part of the MUR and the PJD to differentiate between proselytism and politics is an experiment that is still largely in its conceptual phase, in spite of the numerous efforts to test the applicability of the concepts.
 However, in its conceptual richness, it serves as a useful starting point for the discussion of other Islamist experiences, for it resolves many of the problems that arise in the hypothetical relationship between Islamist missionary action and Islamist political action.
 Above all, it offers considerable hope for the possibility that an Islamist movement is capable of nurturing a course of political action, combined with the frameworks and leadership needed to guide this action, without full immersion in the political arena.
 Full immersion only politicizes and hence negates the all-encompassing spirit of Islam.
 

HUSSAM TAMAM
Editor of the Cultural Page, Arabic section, for Islamonline.net, and an expert of
political Islam.


Posted in MB and West , Political Islam Studies , Research  
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