Global media is reporting on claims by the Tunisian Enahda Party that it was won a victory in Tunis’a first democratic election. According to a Reuters report:
Moderate Islamists claimed victory Monday in Tunisia’s first democratic election, sending a message to other states in the region that long-sidelined Islamists are challenging for power after the “Arab Spring.” Official results have not been announced, but the Ennahda party said its workers had tallied the results posted at polling stations after Sunday’s vote, the first since the uprisings which began in Tunisia and spread through the region. “The first confirmed results show that Ennahda has obtained first place,” campaign manager Abdelhamid Jlazzi said outside party headquarters in the center of the Tunisian capital. As he spoke, a crowd of more than 300 in the street shouted “Allahu Akbar!” or “God is great!” Other people started singing the Tunisian national anthem. Mindful that some people in Tunisia and elsewhere see the resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values, the party official stressed that Ennahda would not try to monopolize power. “We will spare no effort to create a stable political alliance … We reassure the investors and international economic partners,” Jlazzi said. Sunday’s vote was for an assembly which will sit for one year to draft a new constitution. It will also appoint a new interim president and government to run the country until fresh elections late next year or early in 2013. The voting system has built-in checks and balances which make it nearly impossible for any one party to have a majority. Ennahda will therefore be forced to seek alliances with secularist parties, diluting its influence. “This is an historic moment,” said Zeinab Omri, a young woman in a hijab, or Islamic headscarf, who was outside the Ennahda headquarters when party officials claimed victory. “No one can doubt this result. This result shows very clearly that the Tunisian people is a people attached to its Islamic identity,” she said. Tunisia became the birthplace of the “Arab Spring” when Mohamed Bouazizi, a vegetable seller in a provincial town, set fire to himself in protest at poverty and government repression. His suicide provoked a wave of protests which, weeks later, forced autocratic president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Saudi Arabia. The revolution in Tunisia, a former French colony, in turn inspired uprisings which forced out entrenched leaders in Egypt and Libya, and convulsed Yemen and Syria — re-shaping the political landscape of the Middle East. Ennahda is led by Rachid Ghannouchi, who was forced into exile in Britain for 22 years because of harassment by Ben Ali’s police. A softly spoken scholar, he dresses in suits and open-necked shirts while his wife and daughter wear the hijab. Ghannouchi is at pains to stress his party will not enforce any code of morality on Tunisian society, or the millions of Western tourists who holiday on its beaches. He models his approach on the moderate Islamism of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
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Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) 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. 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.
Arab media has reported on a May 2011 interview with Mr. Ghannouchi in which he calls for and predicts the end of Israel. According a Muslim World News translation of the interview in the London-based Elaph:
Ghannouchi is developing / has developed a new strategy for post-revolutionary Tunis, and calls it “The jurisprudence of building, economic growth and construction”, and a new political perception of joint work and tolerance between the different political forces Nahda supports the foundation of a democracy, and preserving Tunis. * Ghannouchi praises the role that Qatar played in the Tunisian and Arab revolutions by adopting them in the media; Qatar provided a platform to their spokesmen * Ghannouchi says that the Tunisian revolution is a true popular revolution. He has confidence in it in spite of the attempts to arrouse a counter revolution * In the next four years, the IUMS plans to establish four universities, one Arab speaking in Turkey, and another is the Tunisian defunct Zaytuna. Ghannouchi supports the Libyan revolution, and hopes it succeeds and joins the other successful revolutions * Ghannouchi maintains that altogether the Arab revolutions are positive for the Palestinians, and threaten to bring Israel to an end. He says that the Palestinian problem lies at the heart of the Nation [umma], and that all the land between the mosque in Mecca and Jerusalem represents the heart of the Islamic Nation, and any [foreign]control over part of this heart is a stamp on the umma’s illness. There is no doubt, he continues, that the revolutions open a new age, in which the regimes which support the West and Israel fall – Egypt, Tunis and soon Libya, Yemen and Syria. The foundations of Western interests in the Arab countries are shaking. Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, he concludes, said that Israel will come to an end prior to 2027; this date looks far, and may be Israel will come to an end sooner.
Mr. Ghannouchi’s views are not surprising given that his 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