بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Club De Madrid
Leaders Face-to-Face Meeting
Open Discussion: The Role of the new Governments
and the role of civil society
Speech by Imam Al Sadig Al Mahdi
Brussels, 2nd October 2014
- I highly appreciate this opportunity to address this joint encounter of Leaders engaged in New Democracies and jointly sponsored by the Club of Madrid, LEND network and Community of Democracies.
An opening autobiographical note refers to the fact that I am of two Worlds: the World of the Religious and Cultural World of my birth, and the given modern World. The challenge which I face is either to accept their coexistence, or they tear my attitude to life apart.
- Myself and other in my predicament are committed to a wide Ummah, and to limited ascriptive loyalties.
In spite of such wide and limited loyalties, we have to do political business in a Nation–State.
- The Nation- State is an imported concept along with the Democratic system which is also imported.
- Although both of the imported concepts are desirable, they both require the fulfillment of certain preconditions which are not in place:
- The main problem with the Nation –State is that there is no Nation yet as peoples’ loyalties are tied to narrower entities. So how to create a Nation?
- The main problem with Democracy is that traditional Society is illiberal, and under freedom, many people behave in ways that are illiberal. No wonder, because it took centuries in the counties which developed democracy for the preconditions to mature. How we jump this hurdle in the building of democracy? Therefore, an important observation to note is that building a Nation, and establishing democracy in that Nation is an uphill process.
- I come from a Country, the Sudan, which experienced all the political systems in the book, namely, parliamentary democracy, senior officers coup d’etat, coup d’etat made by a Communist leaning Regime, coup d’etat made by Islamicist Regime, one party systems, no party system and so on. This troubled experience enriched our political history.
- Throughout this troubled experience; along with others, I raised the flag of democracy, and maintained that any Islamic claims that fail to respect human dignity, freedom and justice are, by Islamic Standards, false. For that principled position I paid the price at the hands of Sudanese dictators. I have been imprisoned and/or detained ten times: in Khartoum, Shandi, Gabeit, Port Sudan (twice), Cairo, Ashbah (Ghost Houses) prison, and five times in Kober prison. I have been elected Prime Mister twice in the sixties of last century and in the eighties. I was elected president of the Sudan’s biggest Political Party, the Ummah Party, since my twenties. With this experience, what lessons do I find useful to offer to you as democracy activists and to our two case studies of Moldova, and Tunisia?
First: For emerging democracies the political system alone will not provide for the needs of ascriptive loyalties in society. The democratic system has got to involve balances to accommodate such needs.
Second: The socioeconomic dimension cannot be taken for granted, there is pervasive poverty and unemployment, and under freedom different sections of society will express their demands impatiently. This both requires the need for massive resources, and a Social Contract to reconcile demands and capabilities.
Third: A New Democracy will have to address the injustices of the past.
This necessitates the establishment of a system of transitional Justice.
Fourth: Beyond the problems of the building of Democracy, there are extraordinary challenges which have to be faced. In our case, the Sudan, the two challenges which had to be faced were: How to deal with Islamic aspirations, and how to end the Civil War? The issue of peace making is not relevant to our two case studies, Moldova and Tunisia, but the question of Islam is for Tunisia. Tunisia’s approach to reconcile Islamic aspirations with the requirements of Civil Society is an experience in wisdom. It has similarities elsewhere in Turkey, in Morocco, in Indonesia and so on.
Two of the most outstanding Moslem intellectuals said:
–That the requirement of reality (الواقع) should be counted among the necessities.(Alghazli), and that,
– The Jurist must formulate the Islamic Duty, comprehend the Social reality, and marry the two (Ibn Algaim).
As president of the International Forum of Moderation, we are preparing for a Regional Study Group (Conference) to discuss all the divisive issues and define a model, which would bridge the present fault lines. However, in Tunisia and elsewhere we now face challenges from extremists who eschew all Modernity, espouse anachronistic ideas and patterns, and use naked terror to enforce their beliefs. The phenomenon of extremism and associated terror has metamorphosed from a single-center, to a network, and now to would-be states. This challenge would target Nation-states, disrupt modernization and reject democracy. It constitutes a National, Regional and International threat. To deal with it in terms of security initiatives, to address them in terms of open Religious advice; are necessary responses but not sufficient. The threat has many causes. It is a political challenge driven by internal and external injustices: autocracy and socioeconomic grievances internally, International manipulation, cultural alienation and so on.
Threat emerged from a reactionary cultural breeding ground. It is necessary to call for an International symposium to reflect upon the deviation from the teachings of Islam, to outline the responsibility of International parties to the problem, to specify the National, Regional and International dangers, to make a comprehensive diagnosis of the situation and to agree upon the prescription.
Fifth: The main complications for democracy in Moldova are:
- With Democratic Freedom come popular socioeconomic demands, which cannot be satisfied by national sources. In the case of countries which joined the EU, development aid came from the union.
- However, all WARSAW Pact countries fell victims to certain International developments, namely:
- After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Neo-conservatives in America called for a policy of domination and influenced Western assertion in ways that did not cater for Russian sensitivities. Both the expansion of NATO and the EU could not have assured the Russians. The peoples of the countries concerned have every right to self-determination, but there are Russian minorities, economic and commercial ties with Russia, guest workers and so on. Such realities were the spots to express Russian unease.
- The situation was aggravated by the ex-President of Russian Federation, Yeltsin, whose term of office devalued his country. Therefore, the situation prepared for the current role of President Putin.
As an International observer, I think it would have been appropriate for the council of Europe to have considered relations between East and West after the fall of the USSR, and envisaged the pattern of security relations between the EU, NATO and the Russian Federation. Such an understanding would have avoided much of the ensuing trouble.
Sixth: Both in Tunisia and Moldova, indeed in the case of all emerging democracies, political liberation will lead to instability unless it is accompanied by a socioeconomic program to satisfy popular aspirations.
Latecomers to the International community will not be able to lift themselves by their own bootstraps. In the case of Moldova, this may come from the Union of Europe.
In the case of Tunisia it can only come from an Arab Fund. Although such Arab resources are not in the horizon, Tunisia is best advised to avoid involvement in any Regional Axis, to continue with policy of moderation, advise Al Nahdha’s Brotherhood cousins in other Regions to eschew the policies of domination pursued by the Regime in Sudan and the Morsi presidency in Egypt, and to agree upon a consensus President, who will be the personification of the consensus Constitution and nurse the country towards mature democracy.