Western media is reporting on comments by the leader of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, known generally as En Nahda, that he hopes his party will win a majority in July elections. According to a Financial Times report:
Tunisia’s long-repressed Islamist party is staging a political comeback as its activists reorganise at great speed for what they hope will be a strong showing in the July elections, the first democratic poll in more than two decades. Nahda was not a prominent group in the youth-led revolution that swept away the 23-year rule of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali in January. The revolution provoked a political earthquake in the Middle East, inspiring similar uprisings across the region. But benefiting from a general amnesty and the party’s legalisation during the transition to democracy, Nahda’s former activists have been busily setting up offices in provinces across the country. The movement’s leaders, meanwhile, have begun unofficial campaigning for the July 24 poll in which Tunisians will choose a constituent assembly that draws up a new constitution and prepares for legislative elections. ‘We are rising from the ruins,’ says Rachid Ghannouchi, Nahda’s leader, who returned home from exile in London at the end of January. ‘Ben Ali failed to erase the memory of Tunisians – they still remembered.’ Mr Ghannouchi said that he was surprised by the sympathy that still existed for Nahda, des pite the party’s treatment by the former regime. ‘People saw [Nahda activists] as victims of Ben Ali, as the worst victims of Ben Ali,’ he told the Financial Times in an interview in Tunis. By regional standards, Nahda is considered a moderate Islamist organisation, and uses Turkey’s AKP, now ruling that country, as its model. Yet its sudden reappearance on the political scene has spread alarm among secular Tunisians who take pride in having the region’s most progressive social laws, including those on women’s rights. Mr Ghannouchi said he hoped Nahda might win a majority of the vote in the July poll, which rivals say overestimates the Islamists’ appeal. Politicians, however, agree that the Islamist party could well emerge as the single largest in the assembly. Secular parties, both liberal and leftist, are fragmented while traditional parties are just learning how to run for genuine elections.”
Global media has also been reporting recently that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood plans to contest up to half of parliament seats in the September election.
Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK.
An Egyptian news report has identified Rashid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is the leader 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 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. 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 Mr. 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.
Kramer notes the following statement by Mr. Ghannouchi in which he alleges that Jews are being 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 an article posted 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.”
Mr. Ghannouchi has 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 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