11 July 2012

Rashid al-Ghannushi

Rashid al-Ghannushi or Rached Kheriji (Arabic: راشد الغنوشي‎)[1] (born 1941) is a Tunisian Islamist politician who co-founded the Ennahda Movement, currently the largest party in Tunisia. He has been called the party's "intellectual leader".[2]


Al-Ghannushi was born outside El Hamma, in the Qabis province of southern Tunisia. He received his certificate of attainment degree, equivalent to the Baccalauréat, in 1962 from the University of Zaytuna. He entered the school of agriculture at Cairo University in 1964, but following the expulsion of Tunisians from Egypt due to the dispute between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Habib Bourguiba, he left for Syria. He studied philosophy at the University of Damascus, graduating in 1968. While in Damascus, Al-Ghannushi initially joined the Socialist Party, but later adopted a more religious viewpoint.
Following an opening of political space[clarification needed] in April 1981 by Bourguiba, Al-Ghannushi founded the "al-ittijah al-islami" or Islamic Tendency Movement. The Movement described itself as specifically rooted in non-violent Islam, and called for a "reconstruction of economic life on a more equitable basis, the end of single-party politics and the acceptance of political pluralism and democracy." By the end of July, Al-Ghannushi and his followers were arrested, sentenced to eleven years in prison in Bizerte, and were tortured. Both the religious and secular community, including numerous secular political organizations, rallied in his support.[3] He was released in 1984, but returned to prison in 1987 with a life sentence, then was again released in 1988. He moved to Europe as a political exile, where he lived for decades.[2]
He attended The Islamic Committee for Palestine conference in Chicago in 1989.[4] Following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Al-Ghannushi denounced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the "colossal crime" of inviting the U.S. to deploy forces.[5]
Rashid Al-Ghannushi speaking in an Islamist rally circa 1980.
Al-Ghannushi continued to criticise Tunisian politics and the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.[1] Following popular unrest in which Ben Ali was ousted, Ghannushi returned to Tunisia on 30 January 2011, after spending twenty two years exiled in London .[6]

Political views

Al-Ghannushi has been called "a thought leader in the process of the Islamist embrace of equal citizenship and equal rights."[2]

On Palestine and the Iraq war

The Islamic Committee for Palestine held a conference that took place in Chicago from December 22–25, 1989 and featured Al-Ghannushi 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 ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Liberation Party.[4]
Following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, Al-Ghannushi denounced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the "colossal crime" of inviting the U.S. to deploy forces. Al-Ghannushi supported Saddam more strongly than other Islamists, comparing him to Yusuf Ibn Tashfin, the 11th-century Almoravid ruler who forcibly unified the Muslim principalities of Spain in order to wrest them from Christian domination. Al-Ghannushi said that, the Muslims now faced "Crusader America," the "enemy of Islam," and Saddam had taken a necessary step toward unity, "joining together two Arab states out of twenty-two, praise be to God." Al-Ghannushi threatened the United States while speaking in Khartoum during the crisis saying "There must be no doubt that we will strike anywhere against whoever strikes Iraq … We must wage unceasing war against the Americans until they leave the land of Islam, or we will burn and destroy all their interests across the entire Islamic world… Muslim youth must be serious in their warning to the Americans that a blow to Iraq will be a license to strike American and Western interests throughout the Islamic world." He also called for a Muslim boycott of American goods, planes and ships.[5]

Later views

Al-Ghannushi continued to criticise Tunisian politics and the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.[1] Following popular unrest in which Ben Ali was ousted, Ghannushi returned to Tunisia on 30 January 2011, after spending twenty two years exiled in London .[6]
Al-Ghannushi claims to represent a progressive strain in Islamic reformism, and continuously stresses the need for innovation against social injustice. He underscores the importance of local culture, and an Islamist movement based in the needs of Tunisians and not in "the obscure theories of Sayyid Qutb". He has sided with worker's rights, unionism, and women's education and rights, though those rights are based in Islam and not Western liberal feminism.[3]
He maintains that women, being one half of the Islamic community, should have full access to education.[7] He cites oppressive cultural codes in Islamic cultures as the major force behind women's choices to turn to Western culture, and believes that Islamic reform, as part of a larger reformist movement, is needed to address women's education, participation, and respect.[8]
For women, there was no path to freedom, knowledge or self-determination except through a revolt against Islam and its mores and the imitation of the West-until the Islamist movement. Before the emergence of the Islamist movement, woman found herself in an unstable and decaying society whose "liberation" was purely superficial: nudity, eroticism, leaving the house and the intermingling of the sexes. So she revolted against these superficial manifestations and called for the return to Islam. But not without trepidation, because for women the return to Islam still portended a return to the age of decline: the harem, self-negation and the inability to determine her own destiny.[8]
In discussions of plurality within Islamic societies, Rashid Al-Ghannushi believes that non-Muslim citizens should not be barred from positions in government, setting himself against more conservative viewpoints.[9]
On 22 January 2011, in an interview with Al Jazeera TV, Rashid Al-Ghannushi confirmed that he is against forcefully pushing for an Islamic Caliphate to be established, unlike Hizb ut-Tahrir, and instead supports a progressive Islamically based democracy to soften peoples hearts to Islam after the long lasting era of secularism that preceded the Tunisian 2011 revolution. In the interview, Al-Ghannushi accused Hizb ut-Tahrir of exporting a distorted understanding of Islam.[10] For expressing moderate views, Rachid Ghanouchi is banned from entering Iran and Saudi Arabia.[11]
In a May 2011 interview, Al-Ghannushi said 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. He said that any [foreign] control over part of this heart is a stamp on the Ummah’s illness and predicted that Israel will soon come to an end.[12]
In the aftermath of the 2011 Tunisian election, Al-Ghannushi reached out to the Jews of Tunisia, sending them delegations and gifts to Jewish nursing homes.[13]


  • Public freedoms in the Islamic state.
  • We and the West (jointly).
  • From the experience of the Islamic Movement in Tunisia.
  • So when Ibn Taymiyya.
  • Rapprochement in the secular and civil society.
  • The Islamic movement and the issue of change.
  • The Palestinian issue crossroads between paths.
  • Women between the Koran and the reality of Muslims.
  • Citizenship rights in the Islamic state.
  • The difference right and the duty to unity.
Some of his books were translated into other languages including English, French, Turkish and Persian.

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