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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More