Tunisian media is reporting that Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi has attended a U.K. state dinner sponsored by members of the British royal family where he accepted the Chatham House prize and received a scroll signed by Queen Elizabeth. According to a Tunisia Live report:
November 2012 LONDON — President Moncef Marzouki formally accepted the Chatham House Prize last night at a state dinner sponsored by members of the British royal family. At the black tie affair, which was attended by several hundred guests, Marzouki and Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, co-winner of the prize, accepted a crystal award and a scroll signed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. After receiving the award, both men gave short speeches that emphasized their commitments to a democratic transition. After intensive research, members of the Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, voted for Marzouki and Ghannouchi as this year’s recipients of the prize. The distinction is awarded annually to the statesperson deemed ‘to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations,’ and this year marked the first time members of the Chatham House selected two recipients. Prince Charles did not attend the state dinner, but, earlier in the evening, he invited Marzouki and Ghannouchi to the Clarence House, the prince’s official residence, where the three held a meeting behind closed doors.
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Around the same time that Mr. Ghannouchi was accepting his prize, he predicted that despite initial cooperation with secularists, “Islamist” movements, presumably the Muslim Brotherhood, would eventually rule over the entire Arab world. According to a Reuters report:
Reuters | Nov 29, 2012 | 22:27 LONDON — The leader of the Tunisian Islamist party that rose to power after the first Arab Spring uprising last year said this week that Islamist movements would eventually emerge triumphant throughout the Arab world after a difficult transition period. Rached Al Ghannouchi, whose Ennahda Party governs with two junior leftist partners, said secular groups should join forces with Islamists to manage the first phase after autocratic rulers were removed. But in the end, Islam will be the ‘reference point’. ‘The Arab world is going through a transition phase which needs coalitions to govern, which brings together Islamist and secular trends,’ Ghannouchi said in an interview during a trip to London where he spoke at Chatham House. ‘These coalitions will lead to eventual rapprochement between the Islamists and the secularists.’ However, he added Islamists would have the upper hand. ‘There’s a true way that Islam represents the common ground for everyone … Eventually Islam becomes a reference point for everyone,’ he said.
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Much of media has taken to characterizing Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood, as a “moderate.” However in May 2009, he signed a statementn calling for a “third Jihadist front” centered on Gaza. As we reported at the time, the statement was issued at a meeting in Istanbul where religious scholars and clerics met with senior Hamas officials. According to a translation of the statement obtained by the GMBDW, among the signatories of the conference statement were the following global Muslim Brotherhood leaders:
- Sheikh Rachid al-Ghannouchi (leader in-exile of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahada)
- Muhammad Sawalha (leader in the U.K Muslim Brotherhood, former Hamas military commander)
- Dr. Hamam Sa’id, Jordan (Head of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood)
It should be noted that among the signatories was Dr. Walid Musa’id al-Tabatibai (aka Walid al-Tabtabai), a well-known Kuwaiti parliamentarian and Salafi leader who authored a letter praising Osama Bin Laden. Dr. al-Tabtabai and Ghannouchi both spoke later at a December 2011 meeting of the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign (GACC) held in Tunisia. The GACC was described in a 2005 media report as:
… a militant, anti-American entity established by more than 225 radical figures from across the Islamic world as a response to the US invasion of Iraq. The group’s initial statement condemned “the Zionists and the American administration led by right-wing extremists that are working to expand their control over nations and peoples, loot their resources, destroy their will, and to change their educational curricula and social system”.  In November 2004, Hawali and Auda were among 26 Saudi clerics, most of whom receive their salaries from the Saudi royal family, who published a religious statement urging Muslims to wage holy war in Iraq.
Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) is the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahda (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.
Consistent with his participation in the GACC, Mr. Ghannouchi has had 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 1994, scholar Martin Kramer had reported on Mr. Ghannouchi’s 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 a statement by Mr. Ghannouchi in which he alleges that Jews are behind a “worldwide campaign 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.
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
In a May 2011 interview, Ghannouchi called for and predicted the end of Israel.