News / Africa

Tunisia Islamist Leader Does Not Support an Islamic State

Tunisian Islamist party leader Rachid Ghanouchi, reacts during an interview with The Associated Press in El Menzah, Tunisia, January 30, 2011.
Tunisian Islamist party leader Rachid Ghanouchi, reacts during an interview with The Associated Press in El Menzah, Tunisia, January 30, 2011.

Islamist leader Rachid Ghanouchi has been in Tunisia's spotlight since returning to the North African country after more than two decades in exile.

In the past, Tunisian authorities have cracked down hard on political Islam. Many are wondering what role it will play as Tunisia tries to build a multiparty democracy.

Ghanouchi is quick to stress his brand of religious politics is open, moderate and tolerant. It is something he has stressed repeatedly, including in an interview with VOA.

Ghanouchi says his party, Ennahda, wants a democratic republic and does not search to install an Islamic republic.

He said that the ideology of Ennadha has matured since the 1980s and Islam and democracy go toghether.

Ghanouchi's party means renaissance in Arabic. And Tunisia is also undergoing a rebirth, of sorts, as it shakes off its autocratic past.

During a brief window of openness after former Tunisian president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali took power in the late 1980s, Ennadha was Tunisia's most powerful opposition party. It captured 17 percent of the vote in 1989 legislative elections. Then Mr. Ben Ali cracked down, sending many Islamists to prison. Others, like Ennahdha's Ghanouchi, went into exile.

On the streets of Tunis, some describe years of official harassment against Muslim fundamentalists.

One young man, who sports the beard of a devout Muslim, said he was rejected from civil service jobs he had applied for despite scoring well in tests.

Both Ben Ali and Tunisia's post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba had little tolerance for political Islam, as they shaped a staunchly secular, westernized nation.

Today, says Fatma Karray, executive editor for the Tunisian newspaper Chourour, Tunisians are being reintroduced to Ennadha.

Karray says just how much support Ennadha has here will be clear in the coming months, as the country prepares for democratic elections. Right now, she says, it's hard to say.

Businessman Boujemaa Bedhaif, a devout Muslim, believes Tunisians will eventually embrace political Islam.

Bedhaif says Islamists must have a place in politics - the Koran is the Destour for Muslims, referring to Tunisia's founding party.

But other Tunisians, like Ismael Skheir, see Ennadha as a minor political player.

Skheir says that in a multiparty democracy there should be a place for Ennadha, but a limited one.

The dominant face of the recent protests in Tunisia and in other Arab countries is not a religious one. Even in Egypt, now being rocked by massive anti-government demonstrations, the long established and popular Muslim Brotherhood was late to join the movement. It is now part of a loose opposition coalition with westernized Egyptian ex-diplomat, Mohammed El Baradei, at its helm.

However big a force political Islam will become in Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world is anybody's guess. But analyst Mansouria Mokhefi, of the Paris-based French Institute of International Relations, believes the West needs to deal with its reality.

Mokhefi says Western nations need to prepare for future democracies in the Arab world in which Islamic parties will play a role. After all, she says, Islam is part of the Arab identity.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid