U.S. media is reporting that In what appears to be a tactical decision, theTunisian Muslim Brotherhood announced on Monday that the country’s constitution would not mention Islamic law (Shari’ah) as a source of legislation. According to a New York Times report:
CAIRO — Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, said on Monday that the country’s post-revolution constitution would not mention Islamic law as a source of legislation, signaling a forceful break with ultraconservatives who have been demanding an Islamic state. “We have to show leadership,” Said Ferjani of Ennahda, the ruling party, said. Instead, a drafting committee will preserve language in Tunisia’s current constitution that refers to Islam as the state’s religion and Arabic as its language, according to Said Ferjani, a member of the political bureau of Ennahda, the Islamist party that leads Tunisia’s government. He and other Ennahda leaders framed the decision as a bid to unify the country’s disparate political factions during a delicate political transition. “There is a huge consensus within Ennahda. We have to show leadership,” Mr. Ferjani said. “We want everyone to get involved.” The move by Ennahda contrasted sharply with the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which has angered leftists, liberals and other groups in recent days with its handling of that country’s constitution. Lawmakers associated with the brotherhood’s political wing and an ultraconservative Salafi party voted on Saturday to fill a panel that will write the constitution with Islamists, causing a walkout by members of several other parties. The debates in Tunisia and Egypt seemed to mark a critical phase in the evolving political life of both countries, as Islamist parties, forced to grapple with fundamental questions about the very nature of the state, started to reveal their intentions, after decades of often-theoretical debate about how such parties would govern. At the same time, the contrasting responses reflected distinct movements shaped by differing histories and emerging political realities. Ennahda rules in a coalition with other parties, while the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, along with Al Nour, the Salafi party, dominate the Egyptian Parliament. Both serve under a government backed by Egypt’s military rulers. In rejecting a mention of Islamic law, Ennahda appeared to be making good on promises to preserve Tunisia’s secular nature, forged under decades of authoritarian rule. And it distanced itself from the ultraconservatives known as Salafis, whose calls to build the features of a religious state have been marked by huge demonstrations in recent days and attacks on alcohol use or films that the conservatives deem to be blasphemous. Secular activists, already wary of Ennahda’s intentions, have in the past accused the group of turning a blind eye to the Salafis’s growing assertiveness. An Ennahda party leader, Ziad Doulatli, appeared to answer that criticism on Monday when he told The Associated Press that the decision to leave Islamic law out of the constitution was “aimed at strengthening the national consensus and helping the democratic transition to succeed by uniting a large majority of the political forces to confront the country’s challenges.” He added, “The Tunisian experience can serve as a model for other countries going through similar transformations.” It remains to be seen whether Ennahda abides by other promises it has made — not to ban alcohol, for example — as it tries to strike a balance between the demands of the Salafis and the concerns of its secular partners in government.
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Ennahda is headed by Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) who 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. Other posts have detailed his extremist background