The Financial Times has published an interview with Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Al-Ghannouchi in which he discusses, amongst a wide variety of other topics, his intention of returning to Tunisia. According to the interview
FT: Are you really going back? You have been saying you are returning so when do you expect to be in Tunisia?
RG: I decided to return because the cause for which I left Tunisia has now disappeared. I was sentenced to life imprisonment (three life sentences, when one would have been enough), and I did not accept to spend the rest of my life in prison. I had to defend my right to freedom.
Now Ben Ali has gone, the natural state is for me to be inside the country, to be involved. The dictator has fallen, but the dictatorship is still there. I wish to be involved in contributing alongside others to the dismantling of the dictatorship and to help in the process of taking Tunisia from the dictatorial system to a democratic one. To help in these efforts to take Tunisia though this transitional process.
We’ll go back to organising ourselves and contribute to the education of the new generation through our moderate, democratic thought.
Our thought is similar to that of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey, currently in government. Indeed my books have almost all been translated into Turkish and are widely read there.
However I have no political aspirations myself, neither for standing as a minister, for parliament or president. Some are presenting me as a Khomeini who will return to Tunisia – I am no Khomeini.
The natural state is for me to be in Tunisia. As for the timing I have left this for my brothers, members of the Nahda have been informed of my intention and desire to go back, and arrangements have been left with them to prepare. Indeed the day they say ‘come’, I will go back.
My age does not allow me to consider such aspirations. I am nearing 70 years old and there are new generations inside Nahda more able, more suited to political activism. I intend to concentrate my contribution to the development of Islamic thought and my involvement in the causes of the Muslim world, and I hope to dedicate the rest of my life for working towards these endeavors.
Tunisia is one part of the Muslim world, and it will be one among my many duties and interests.
An Egyptian news report has identified Rashid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is the leader in-exile of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahada (aka Ennahda, Al Nahda) and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood by 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. Al-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.
In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer reported on the extremist background of Al-Ghannouchi. According to that report:
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.
Despite his intentions, Arabic language reports suggest that Al-Ghannouchi cannot return to Tunisia unless he is pardoned. In 1992, a Tunisian court sentenced him in absentia to life imprisonment, for plotting to overthrow the Tunisian government.