Tunisia’s interim government has granted the main Islamist group, al-Nahda, permission to form a political party, the official Tunis Afrique Presse News Agency (TAP) said. Government spokesman, Ali el-Aryadh, confirmed, “the al-Nahda movement has just been legalised”. Tuesday’s decision will allow al-Nahda (The Awakening) to participate in upcoming elections. Al-Nahda was the strongest opposition force before being banned for two decades under toppled President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s rule. The movement was founded in 1981 by Rachid Ghannouchi and intellectuals inspired by the influential Muslim Brotherhood born in Egypt. It was tolerated in the initial years after Ben Ali took power in 1987 but denied legal registration. After a good showing in 1989 parliamentary election, there was a crackdown on its activists and sympathisers. Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia in January after 20 years in exile in London. An Islamist-backed coalition won 17 per cent of the vote in 1989 elections, even though the vote was heavily falsified, leading to a crackdown on the movement. bout 30,000 activists and Islamist sympathisers were arrested in the 1990s and many went into exile. Ghannouchi has said he will not run for the presidency in elections that the interim authority has said will be held by mid-July, but his movement plans to take part in parliamentary elections. Analysts have said al-Nahda could once again rise as a major political force.
An earlier post reported on plans by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to form a new political party to be known as the Freedom and Justice Party, or Horeya and Adala.
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 hismembership 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.