The Tunisian specificity: Political hegemony and the habitus of commitment in contemporary public Islam
I interpret the pursuit of an Islamic understanding of ideals such as democracy, pluralism and freedom, carried out by the Tunisian Islamic movements after the 2011 revolution, as part of a discursive tradition (Asad 1986) about the “Tunisian specificity”. Such tradition entails the interpretation of Islamic sources – both classical and modern – by religious and secular authorities, with the aim of legitimating the social and political commitment in the name of Islam. The Tunisian specificity is a discourse that draws on the local interpretations of Islamic practices (such as Sufism and saints worship), on the work of modern Islamic thinkers, and on the reasoning about democracy and human rights, to construct a theoretical framework aimed at deepening the concepts of moderation, toleration, pluralism and political activity from an Islamic vantage point. My contribution is part of an ethnographic research pursued from 2012 to 2015 among Tunisian Islamic public. In my view, such category covers both the Islamists (namely the actors engaged in movements and parties directly involved in the political arena) and the du‘at (the activist of civil society and pious associations, engaged in spreading the Islamic message “from below”). The observation of interrelationships between the two groups, and of the sharing of the same framework (the Tunisian specificity) and vocabulary (freedom, dignity, human rights, and the like), suggests that the sharp distinction between political and social activism inspired by Islamic ideals is to be blurred.
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