It is in the wake of this perspective that we can see a return to politics on the other side of the Mediterranean, a return that is to some extent a ‘first time’. It is the subject of the Arab spring that, with particular attention to Tunisia, is at the centre of this issue of ‘Oasis’. It is a theological political return that cannot be – is not able to be – a mere return to tradition. Despite the Salafites or Al-Qaeda, even the Muslim Brotherhood or an-Nahda realise that a ‘return’ is not possible. A return is not viable that completely excludes European-western modernity, the form of the modern state with its rights and freedoms. The theological-political return thus becomes the problem of the relations between politics and religion. Having discarded the Salafi way, which wants the Islamic state immediately, taking advantage of the uprisings to divide the Muslims, and the way of European laicism, two ways remain: the tactical one that instrumentally accepts the democratic order in the present conditions reserving itself the right however to heavily condition it the moment that Islamisation is accomplished from the bottom; the liberal one, which recognises the distinction between laical state and religious civil society as a fundamental point. A difference which, in the number of ‘Oasis’, is well expressed by the American model, illustrated by the Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles Chaput, and by the Lebanese model, through the figure of the civic state theorised by the Shi’ite Muhammad Mahdî Shamseddine. A less secular variant of this standpoint is the one that sets out sharî’a as source of inspiration, not strictly normative, of the legislative framework. From this point of view, the declaration made in March 2012 by Rachid Ghannouchi is important, leader of an-Nahda, the Tunisian equivalent of the Muslim Brothers, according to whom his party has not claimed the reference to sharî’a in the new Constitution.
In this number as in the past editions ‘Oasis’ gives a significant choice of stances on this lively debate, which is at present crossing the Arab-Islamic world and not even given a mention by our media. In this way the journal offers a really precious contribution. It makes it possible to make an opening in the wall of ignorance that separates neighbouring peoples, divided by the sea and centuries-old prejudices, whose immigrants are always present among us, and also helps to understand the affinity of the issues. Us, with the crisis of democracy in which religion does not seem to have the right to have its say; them, with the attempt to reach democracy by means of religion. The return of the religious onto their scene challenges our sorry secularisation just as, in parallel, the distinction between politics and religion has a lot to say about today’s Arab spring. A distinction that has established itself in modern Europe not only against (Christian) religion, but also thanks to it. Thanks to that duality between God and Caesar, Church and State, city of God and terrestrial city which, present in the Christianity of the first centuries and than eclipsed, is found again and then recognised by the Vatican Council II. A model that entails the criticism of political theology. Which does not mean opposition, between religion and politics, but a clear distinction in such a way as to permit the relationship between democracy and religion. Rightly so ‘Oasis’ highlights the importance of the figure and work of Jacques Maritain in this reflection. The Catholic thought of the 1900s had to reject the medievalist theological-political model to open up to liberal democracy and the meeting with the modern. An analogous pathway is today required of Islam, through a hermeneutic valorisation of the liberal positions present in its long tradition.