Anabaptized ‘moderate’: ‘moderate Islamists,’ American think tanks, and the roadmap to ‘the Jasmine Revolution’ and ‘the Arab Spring’

Hajer ben Hadj Salem


Since January 2011, the Tunisian uprisings and their aftermath have generated a spate of analyses and attempts to historicize what seemed to many in the academic circles elusive moments. In addition to chronicles, flows of books, anthologies, dispatches, and other edited mementos historicizing the uprisings have sought to embrace the complexity of what occurred and its ramifications. However, the majority of these insider and outsider accounts on the subject tend to corroborate to what has become a global romance of a ‘revolution without leaders-’ without philosophers, further tickling a luring sense of “Tunisian exceptionalism.” Ironically, the spread of poplar uprisings in neighboring countries turned what was (mis)taken for a Tunisian distinctive feature into a common pattern cutting across the region.  Still, it has remained until now critically under-examined and unquestioned, which has, in my opinion, contributed to hamper realistic assessment and accurate reading of the Tunisian experience and its outcomes. This paper aims to question the myth of a “revolution without philosophers.” It attempts to examine one of the many missing elements of the 2011 scenario by delineating the profile of its overlooked omniscient “Philosophers” and tracing the broad outlines of the ideological apparatus informing the 2011 events and shaping their aftermath.  First, it delves into the Western ideological roots of moderate Islamism.” Borrowing a Western lens, the paper tries to draw a portrait of the new “ruling elite”-the so-called “moderate Islamists,” US alternative “reliable interlocutors” to the falling “secular dictators,” and to depict the concomitant democracy promotion moral canopy on which the new strategic thinking rests.  Second, it studies the broad terms of the compact made between these new strategic actors and US policy strategists and policy makers. Third, it will provide a sketch of the roadmap towards implementing the new strategic plans for the region as laid down by US think tanks and highlight the shaky foundations of the democratization project. The paper concludes with an assessment of the strategic project and demonstrates the shortsightedness of its philosophers and actors.



Moderate Islam, Islam and Democracy, think tanks, Arab spring, leaderless Revolution.

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