Olivier Roy notes that there was no visible Islamist dimension to the uprising in Tunisia.
Instead, the protesters were calling for freedom, democracy and multi-party elections. Put more simply, they just wanted to get rid of the kleptocratic ruling family.
At the end, when the real “Islamist” leaders returned from exile in the West (yes they were in the West, not in Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia), they, like Rached Ghannouchi, spoke of elections, coalition government and stability, all the while keeping a low profile.
Have the Islamists disappeared?
No. But in North Africa, at least, most of them have become democrats. True, fringe groups have followed the path of a nomadic global jihad and are roaming the Sahel in search of hostages, but they have no real support in the population. That is why they went to the desert.
Nevertheless, these highway robbers are still branded as a strategic threat by Western governments at a loss to design a long-term policy. Other Islamists have just given up politics and closed their door, pursuing a pious, conservative, but apolitical way of life. They put a burqa on their lives as well as on their wives.
But the bulk of the former Islamists have come to the same conclusion of the generation that founded the Justice and Development Party in Turkey: There is no third way between democracy and dictatorship. There is just dictatorship and democracy.