News / Middle East

Q&A: Tunisia’s Constitution – Rachid Ghannouchi

Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Feb. 11, 2013
Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian moderate Islamist Ennahda party, Feb. 11, 2013
Carol CastielIdriss Fall
Rachid Ghannouchi is the co-founder and president of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennadha Party.   Ghannouchi, a leading thinker on political Islam spent 22 years in exile until Tunisia’s authoritarian government collapsed in the face of Arab Spring protests in early 2011.
 
More recently Ghannouchi played a key role in the drafting of Tunisia’s new constitution, considered one of the most progressive in the region.   Will the country that started the Arab Spring continue to inspire the region, and what can the Tunisian approach to resolving political conflict and reconciling Islamism and democracy teach us about the prospects for successful transitions elsewhere in the Arab World?  VOA’s Carol Castiel and Idriss Fall of VOA’s French-to-Africa service explore those questions with Rachid Ghannouchi on VOA’s Press Conference USA.
 
VOA: What was Ennahda’s special contribution to the Tunisian constitution?
 
GHANNOUCHI:  Ennahda is the main (political) party in Tunisia, it contributed to the whole process of democracy, without Ennahda it would not have been possible to see this constitution or make the national dialogue between more than 220 parties succeed.
 
Tunisian elites whether secularists or Islamists succeeded in dealing positively with the very complicated realities. They had enough patience to continue their national dialogue and reached a consensus about democracy, the good marriage between Islam and democracy, between Islam and moderate secularists.
 
So, we managed to avoid the confrontation between all factions and succeeded to preserve the national unity around democracy, moderate Islam and moderate secularists.
 
VOA:  Many say that Tunisia’s constitution is such a liberal document, making Tunisia a civil state with an Islamic identity.  Does that smash the stereotyping about Islam?
 
GHANNOUCHI:  We understand Islam as justice, equality, mercy, national unity and universal values, so Islam is not terrorism, not hatred toward others. Islam is not fighting against democracy or human rights Islam is mercy and justice.
 
We participated in drafting the constitution and we strongly believe that Islam, democracy and human rights are compatible. So since 1981 we tried to deepen these universal values within the Islamic culture.
 
VOA: Despite being democratically elected, Ennahda agreed in December to step down in favor of a more technocratic government, to serve until the elections later this year. To what extent did the military coup that ousted elected President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt affect your party’s decision to step aside?
 
GHANNOUCHI:  We focused on the main goal of our nation, which was to make the process of democracy succeed. So keeping the power in our hand or not was not the most important thing.
 
We offered the Tunisian people a very democratic, moderate constitution. We sacrificed our position in government because the national interest was to guarantee that the Tunisian people have a constitution and a neutral government.  We are very keen to put the Tunisian train on the track of democracy and we did.
 
 
VOA:  Would you be an Ennahda candidate for the presidential elections?
 
GHANNOUCHI:  No, I do not have this ambition; this revolution was made by the youth, so I am very keen to give the opportunity to the Tunisian youth.
 
VOA:  What are the prospects of coexistence between Islamists and secularists within Tunisia when there are still fundamentalist elements among the Islamists who could derail progress?
 
GHANNOUCHI:  Any faction that uses violence we have to fight against it because problems in the society have to be solved through dialogue and not through weapons, killing people or excluding them.
 
Salafism is not one phenomenon; it is a very complicated one. So Salafists who do not use violence, we dialogue with them and there are two or three Salafi (political) parties in Tunisia, working within the law. Whoever uses violence to impose his ideas we will have to fight against him.
 
The phenomenon of international terrorism is a very marginal one in Tunisia and the general culture in Tunisia is a peaceful one, so there is no future for fundamentalism or violence.
 
However a lack of (economic) development is fueling this phenomenon, it spreads in the poorest areas, so without a real project to develop these areas, no solution can succeed.
 
Also there is a lack of real knowledge about Islam, there is a need for a real interpretation of Islam that is not killing or fighting against democracy and gender equality.
 
Rachid Ghannouchi is this week’s guest on Press Conference USA on the Voice of America

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs