AK Party Model for Islamists

The Applicability of the “Turkish Model” to Morocco: The Case of the Parti de la Justice et du Développement (PJD)

Feriha Perekli

The “Turkish model,” in the form of a marriage between moderate Islam and democracy, the AKP’s electoral success and the economic growth witnessed in the last decade, has become the ultimate allure to which Arab Islamists aspire. This study focuses on the main premises of the Islamist PJD (Parti de la Justice et du Développement) of Morocco in order to understand what the “Turkish model” signified for them. By not confining the “Turkish model” solely to the AKP policies, but stretching it instead to the pre-AKP Islamist parties, the idea is to uncover which features of the “Turkish model” are espoused by the Moroccan Islamists and which features are not appreciated.

After a brief introduction regarding the AKP’s understanding of secularism and how it differs from radical secularism, the emphasis is given to the PJD’s position on secularism. The following section explores lessons gathered by the PJD from Turkish parliamentarian Islamism in regards to engagement in political participation in the face of state repression. The last section examines the transition of the PJD’s discourse from being moralistic-based to policyoriented, in which the Turkish experience once again formed a reference point. Within the Arab Islamist circles, the AKP example has been considered to be the epitome of moderation, pragmatism, good governance and the convergence between Islam, democracy and modernity.

The ascension of the AKP to power was certainly a triumph for the moderate Islamists who opted to pursue a peaceful and gradualist (tadarruj) strategy, such as respecting the redlines of the established order by fielding a reduced number of candidates for elections and avoiding any kind of revolutionary rhetoric. Within the larger debate on the alleged “incompatibility” between Islam and democracy, Arab Islamists were widely accused of “hijacking democracy” by participating in elections in order to establish theocratic regimes with totalitarian features.1 Because the AKP, the primary proponents of political Islam in Turkey, strengthened the democratic process during the 2000s, Arab Islamists can now face their critics and contend that they too can be part of the electoral process and actually reinforce democracy in their countries.

Inspired by the AKP’s democratization reforms, the Arab Islamists argued that in the event of being given full legal recognition, or full integration within the political system instead of “restricted participation,” they would replicate the
AKP in striving to reinstate the main components of democracy. In this regard, Tunisian Islamist moderate Rashid al-Ghannoushi lauded the AKP’s feat of developing a way to reach out to the various sections of society, adopting a strategy promoting human rights, and extending political freedoms in line with European norms, to establish a modern democratic state. Likewise, in acknowledgment of the AKP’s widespread appeal, the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, consulted with members of the AKP ahead of the elections in order to make their own message more palatable to the public and to “correct the false image that the Muslim Brotherhood aims to monopolize political activity.”4 Praising the AKP for raising the standard of living, along with restraining the “army’s tutelage upon the will of the people,5 Ghannoushi also commended Turkey for openly challenging Israel for first time ever. For him, this shift in the foreign policy domain, which aspired to address the problems of the Islamic community at large, strengthened Turkey’s Islamic identity. This rising “Turkophilia” around the region occasionally took unexpected forms, leading Islamists to see in Turkey what they wanted to see. For instance, Yasser Burhami, head of the Egyptian al-Dawa al-Salafiyya (Salafist Call) group held that the Egyptian tourist industry should look to Turkey for guidance, claiming that “male beaches there are segregated from female beaches, [yet] still attract Arab and foreign tourists.”7

The Moroccan PJD (Parti de la Justice et du Développement) is one of the Islamist parties whose leaders have applauded both the success of the Turkish Islamists over the years and the electoral victories and democratization reforms of the AKP government.

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