Absract: At its tenth national congress, the Ennahda Movement declared that they would separate “politics” from “preaching” and to transform itself into a national democratic party. This decision means ideologically that the movement is largely abandoning the identity politics and pan-Islamic agenda. Organizationally, it means giving up the traditional comprehensive organization style of Islamic movements and downgrading—or even cutting—its ties with the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood. This “rebranding” of the movement may have a positive impact on its political performance and on its acceptance locally and internationally. However, there are many challenges would be expected regarding the movement’s ability of recruitment and mobilization and its internal coherence and stability.
“Islamism is dead!” “Ennahdaout of political Islam,” “From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy.”With these breathtakingly dramatic headlines, various international news agencies covered the tenth national congress of the Ennahda Movement Party, which was held on May 20, 2016. At this congress, party leaders announced what has been described as an ideological shift or rebranding of the movement by deciding to separate the “political” from the “preaching” and to transform the Ennahda Movement into an ordinary “national democratic party.”
This historic decision is considered by Rachid al-Ghannouchi—the founder, main ideologue, and current president of the Ennahda Movement Party—to be a sign of “maturity.” On the other hand, it unleashed a harsh storm of criticism, with party leaders accused of betraying their history and beliefs and of making shameful concessions to satisfy Tunisian secularists and international powers.
The aim of this piece is neither to praise nor to criticize this decision. Rather, it attempts to comprehend what it really means and what its possible impact on the political future of Ennahda Party will be. Yet, before proceeding, it is important to trace the roots of the political–preaching dilemma in the contemporary Islamic movement, which is the dilemma that Ennahda Party claims to have overcome at its last congress.