Tunisian media is reporting that Tunisan Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Gnahhouchi has been nominated for the Chatham House Prize awarded by a major think tank based in the UK. According to a Tunisia Live report:
Interim President Moncef Marzouki and leader of the Ennahdha Movement Rached Ghannouchi have been nominated for the Chatham House Prize Chatham House, a major think tank based in the UK, has nominated Tunisian Interim President Moncef Marzouki and the leader of the Ennahdha Movement, Rached Ghannouchi, for this year’s Chatham House Prize. According to the Chatham House web-page, ‘The annual Chatham House Prize is awarded to the statesperson who is deemed by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.’ The three other nominations for the prize being considered this year are Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of the IMF, Bishop Deng of South Sudan, and Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre. The Chatham House, which was ranked by the University of Pennsylvania’s 2011 Global Go To Think Tanks Rankings as the top ‘Non-US’ think tank, justified their nomination by stating, ‘Sheikh Rached Ghannouchi and Dr. Moncef Marzouki are nominated jointly for the successful compromises each achieved during Tunisia’s democratic transition. Representing two sides of the same coin, they have together ensured that Tunisia remains at the forefront of the new democratic wave in the Middle East and North Africa.’ Rached Ghannouchi, who had been exiled for political reasons for his opposition to the regimes of Habib Bourguiba and Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, spent more than twenty years in London. About his time in the country, Ghannouchi is quoted as saying, ‘When people asked me why I came to Britain, I explained that I was going to a country ruled by a queen where people are not oppressed and where justice prevails.’ Though Ghannouchi’s Ennahdha Party has critics both domestically and abroad, Maha Azzam of Chatham House praised the leader’s moderation, saying, ‘His views have always been considered quite liberal.’ Also a victim of political persecution, Marzouki does not profess to share the same beliefs about the role of Islam in a democratic state as his co-nominee. Upon Ben Ali’s abdication, Marzouki returned from France and re-headquartered the party he founded, known as Congress for the Republic, in Tunis. Marzouki’s party currently holds the second largest number of deputies in the interim Constituent Assembly and has been working with the Ennahdha and Ettakatol parties to set dates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Previous winners of the Chatham House Prize include Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and President of Turkey Abdullah Gül. This past year democracy advocate and long-time political prisoner, Aung Sun Suu Kyi of Burma was awarded the Chatham Prize.
Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) is the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahda (aka Ennahda, Al Nahda) and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. An Egyptian news report has identified Ghannouchi as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK.
Mr. Ghannouchi has had a long history of association with extremism and Palestinian terrorism. From 1988-92, the Islamic Committee for Palestine organized conferences and rallies in the United States that featured the leading lights of Islamic extremist movements throughout the world. One example of such a conference took place in Chicago from December 22-25, 1989 and featured Mr. Gahannouchi as a speaker. Its theme was “Palestine, Intifada, and Horizons of Islamic Renaissance” and other speakers included Abd Al-‘Aziz Al’Awda, the “spiritual leader” of Islamic Jihad and Muhammad ‘Umar of Hizb Al-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party.
In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer had reported on Mr. Ghannouchi’s his extremist background:
Assuming a valid distinction can be made between Islamists who are “extremist” and “reformist,” Ghannouchi clearly belongs to the first category. Since his last visit to the United States, he has openly threatened U.S. interests, supported Iraq against the United States and campaigned against the Arab-Israeli peace process. Indeed, Ghannouchi in exile has personified the rejection of U.S. policies, even as he dispatches missives to the State Department.
Kramer also notes the following statement by Mr. Ghannouchi in which he alleges that Jews are behind a “worldwide campaign against Islam”:
The Jews everywhere are behind a worldwide campaign against Islam. Islam and the West could reach an accommodation, he says, were it not for the worldwide machinations of the Jews, who fan the fires of mistrust. Beware the Jews, he admonishes the West: “We Islamists hope that the West is not carried away by the Jewish strategy of linking the future of its relationship with the Islamic world with a war against Islam.
In another article posted that same year on an Islamic website, Mr. Ghannouchi wrote:
Zionism can be seen as hostile to every element rooted in ethical and religious principles (excepting those remnants, which can be exploited as slogans and national myths). It both represents and serves the new existential ethos which transforms the human race into ‘marketing’ and ‘geopolitical’ units which can be deployed, rewarded or punished by the powers that be, who are accountable to no-one save themselves. Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilization, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilization can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf. To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one’s hope for a global liberation. The ‘Palestinian cause’ does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war; Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the centre of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilization, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate mans remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilization which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.”
As recently as 2002, Mr. Ghannouchi co-signed a statement that said “The bodies of the men and women of Palestine are shields against the Zionist agenda, which its greater target is to destroy the entire Islamic Ummah.” The statement was also signed by:
- Mustafa Mashhour, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
- Esam Al Atar, leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood
- Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General for Hezbollah
- Ahmed Yassin, the late former spiritual leader of Hamas
In March, Mr. Ghannouchi said that the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, “is compatible with Israel’s aggressive nature”. In a May 2011 interview, Ghannouchi called for and predicted the end of Israel.