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 Russia's Expat Community Shrinking

    Russia's troubled economy, tensions with West have led hundreds of thousands of foreigners to leave for better opportunities

    Accelerating the Push Against Islamic State: What Will Work?

    Experts stress need to step up military action, address root causes of Muslims' disaffection, counter IS social media messages in a massive way

    Experts: N. Korean Abductions Sought to Halt Brain Drain

    Pyongyang abducted about 3,800 South Koreans and more than a dozen Japanese nationals in late 1970s

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.