European think tank advocates inclusion of “Muslim Democrats” in EU initiatives

European think tank advocates inclusion of “Muslim Democrats” in EU initiatives

The European Union should not shun “Muslim Democratic” parties in the Mediterranean Arab states, but engage with them to promote good governance and development of civil society, recommends a prestigious Brussels-based think tank.

The Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) makes the recommendation in a study titled “Political Islam and European Foreign Policy: Perspectives from Muslim Democrats of the Mediterranean,” published recently.

“One can observe that there are democratic Islamist parties, parties that are not violent which would like to participate in a normal, parliamentary and democratic system and all these parties are restricted in various degrees from full participation,” Michael Emerson, Associate Senior Research Fellow at CEPS, told KUNA in an interview here Thursday.

He listed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Justice and Development party (PJD) in Morocco, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey, and the Renaissance Party in Tunisia as Muslim Democratic parties.

“Our argument is that marginalization of these parties to have full political opportunities is anti-democratic and secondly it is also increasing the probability of radicalization of these parties when they are frustrated in their ambitions to enter the political system,” said the European analyst.

Emerson noted that the EU in principle is committed to dialogue with all peaceful civil society actors in these countries, but the fact is that the EU is not acting upon that.

“It is basically having very little contact with these parties with the result that these parties themselves form a very negative image of the EU”s foreign policy accusing it of double standards,” he noted.

He cited the Islamic group Hamas in Palestine as a “perfect example of these double standards.” The EU has put Hamas on its terrorist list and refuses any contacts with it although Hamas won in a democratic and fair elections.

In recent years, intellectual work on and debate over political Islam in the West has mushroomed since 2001.

This has helped to correct some of the simplistic and alarmist assumptions previously held in the West about the nature of Islamist values and intentions, asserts the study.