Tunisia, the first Arab country both I and the “Arab Spring” visited, successfully held what looks like a free and fair election. This doesn’t surprise me. The Islamist party has reportedly done rather well, which does surprise me a bit, though no one has yet counted all the votes and the Islamists will surely have to share power with secular parties.
Just about every report I’ve read describes the Islamists as “moderate.” This is—if I may be blunt—idiotic. They’re moderate compared to what? Hezbollah and Al Qaeda? Sure. But who isn’t?
I’ll accept the notion that Tunisia’s Islamists look slightly moderate next to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood–Tunisia is a much more advanced and liberal society–but that isn’t saying much. The Muslim Brotherhood is not even in the same time zone as any genuinely moderate party the typical Western consumer of news has ever had any experience with.
Tunisia’s secular citizens are by and large suspicious of their Islamist neighbors. I strongly recommend Western readers trust Tunisians more than visiting journalists about who among them is moderate and who isn’t. I, for one, will consider Tunisia’s Islamists a Muslim version of Europe’s conservative Christian Democrats only after they’ve shared power with liberal parties for a decade without showing totalitarian tendencies.