Protesters gather for Friday prayers in Tahrir square in Cairo
Protesters gather for Friday prayers in Tahrir square in Cairo September 9, 2011. Thousands of Egyptian activists returned to the square on Friday . Reuters

With the popularity of Islamic-based political parties in Tunisia and Egypt, and the announce of the continuation of a sharia law-based Libya, political Islam in some of the Arab Spring countries is it seems regaining momentum, re-launching the debate between democracy and Islam.

After 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden's jihadist based rhetoric which called for Muslims to wage war against the West, the struggle against terrorism became systematically associated with a 'clash of civilisations' between the West and Islam, a religion intertwined in the cultural identity of the Arab world.

Fast forward in 2011 and countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, widely supported by the West in overthrowing a series of dictators who had been in power for decades, seem to see a surge of Islamic political parties.

The civil societies that stood up against their tyrannical regimes seem anxious to preserve their cultural identity while integrating democratic processes at the core of the political and state's apparatus.

While Mubarak and Ben Ali were supported by the West for years, their suppression of religious political parties seem to have provided a new opportunity for Islam-based political groupings that had been in opposition to the power for years.

After months of uprising and political uncertainty, many in Tunisia and Egypt have been left disillusioned by the 'revolution.' Despite the ousting of Mubarak and Ben Ali, some of the grievances advanced by the protesters are still prevalent.

Economic problems and the fear that former allies of the ousted leaders could try to re-enter the political life have pushed some to turn to parties such as the Ennahda in Tunisia or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In the last decades the Arab world has seen various societal and structural changes. While fertility has dramatically fallen, more women have access to education and call for more equality, in society and within their household.

On the other hand, the proliferation of mobile phones, satellite TV and social networks have enhanced the will to push for political debate and the civil societies now want to be more involved in the political domestic sphere.

New generations are more willing to reject the strongly patriarchal model embodied by charismatic leaders, who used oppression to reign via a cult of personality, which figures such as Gaddafi the 'brother leader' have mastered.

The new trend of Islam-based political parties however appear to have shifted away from strong and severe Islamist ideology, at least in their discourses, and emphasise less on the need to oppose the West and more on the need to resolve domestic problems while keeping in line with the cultural identity of the societies they want to lead.

Parties associated with the Salafist movement that calls for much stricter rules and religious tenets still exist, but within parties such as the Muslim brotherhood and Ennahda, members also call for more freedom, democracy, debate and good governance.

In those countries, democracy then is not perceived as a Western concept but rather as a political consequence of the uprising against regimes that have rules for years through patrimonialism, nepotism, and rampant corruption.

Demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the failure of the leaders in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya to take into account the people's grievances and the debate was centred on the nation and its domestic oppressors rather than on the West's oppression, hence Al-Qaeda's inability to play a role in the Arab Spring.

In Tunisia, the Ennahda party is set to come out of Sunday's elections as the strongest single party but its leader Rashid Al-Ghannushi has presented himself as a moderate, praising both democratic and Islamic values.

His party he says is closer to the Turkish AKP than to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Parties like the APK, which defend conservative values such as family and work ethic while adopting a neoliberal approach of the economy while organising regular elections, could see a surge in popularity, in oppositions to more radical parties which tend to be seen as non-reformist and oppose strikes or demonstrations.

In Egypt however the Muslim Brotherhood it seems is still struggling to come to terms with the country's new political map. While the party still aims to win about a third of parliamentary seats in next month's election, some of its former allies have defected.

As various different parties have registered in the recent months, different alliances and blocs have formed and split up to form new alliances.

The Muslim Brotherhood has seen two of its former main allies, an ultra-conservative Salafi party and the liberal traditional Wafd group, leaving the Democratic Alliance and they both are now expected to run competing electoral lists.

While most parties have criticised the Supreme Military Council's complicated electoral system for the parliamentary elections that are due to take place on 28 November, any brusque move from the Muslim Brotherhood could be instrumentalised by the military.

While a divide which opposes secular and religious tendencies is clear for all to see, Islam-based political parties and coalitions are also struggling to come to terms with the new political configuration that the civil society aspire to and internal splits become visible.

Meanwhile in Libya, the leaders of the NTC have announced their intention to keep a sharia law based state, noting it is part of the identity of Libya. While it is yet very difficult to see who could emerge as a winner of elections in Libya, as political parties still have to emerge, Islam is already tipped to be at the basis of the judicial system.

The Arab Spring then it seems has led to the revival of a debate between Islam and democracy, but not along the lines of the debate which took place in the West in the aftermath of 9/11 and which focused on a clash of civilisations.

The questions now asked in the Arab world tend to concentrate on a will to better define the role of Islam in the modern Arab world, and its role as a religion interconnected with identitarian and cultural beliefs.