: راشد الغنوشي
; born 22 June 1941), also spelled Rachid al-Ghannouchi
or Rached el-Ghannouchi
, is a Tunisian
politician and thinker,
co-founder of the Ennahdha Party
and serving as its "intellectual leader".
He was born Rashad Khriji
Ghannouchi was born outside El Hamma
, in the governorate of Gabès
in southern Tunisia. His village had no electricity or paved roads. His father was a poor farmer with children including Rached. His family worked in the fields every day, and had meat to eat only a few times a year.
After the ground season had ended, the family wove baskets from palm leaves to supplement its income. Rached was able to attend a local branch of the traditional Arabic-language Zaytouna school thanks to financial help from an older brother.
Islamic Tendency Movement
In April 1981 Ghannouchi founded the Islamic Tendency Movement (Arabic
: حركة الاتجاه الإسلامي
Ḥarakat al-Ittijāh al-Islāmī
). The Movement described itself as specifically rooted in non-violent Islamism
, 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, Ghannouchi 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.
While in prison he translated a number of works and wrote on topics such as democracy, women's rights, and Palestine. He also wrote his most noted work, Al‐Hurriyat al‐'Ammah
He was released in 1984, but returned to prison in 1987 with a life sentence, then was again released in 1988. He moved to the United Kingdom
as a political exile, where he lived for 22 years.
He attended The Islamic Committee for Palestine conference in Chicago in 1989.
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.
He also called for a Muslim boycott of American goods, planes and ships.
He has also been criticized for calling for jihad against Israel.
Rachid Al-Ghannouchi speaking in an Islamist rally circa 1980.
Tunisian Revolution and after
Following popular unrest
in which Ben Ali was ousted, Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia on 30 January 2011, after spending twenty two years exiled in London
of people welcoming him.
Ennahda formed a government which led Tunisia through the challenging and tumultuous aftermath of the Jasmine revolution
. The government during this period was characterized by greater transparency, lack of corruption, and consensus-building. In March 2012, Ennahda declared it would not support making sharia the main source of legislation in the new constitution, maintaining the secular nature of the state. Ennahda's stance on the issue was criticized by hardline Islamists, who wanted strict sharia, but was welcomed by secular parties.
The government was criticized for mediocre economic performance, not stimulating the tourism industry, and poor relations with Tunisia's biggest trading partner France. In particular it was criticized for tolerating efforts at aggressive Islamisation by radical Islamists who were demanding Sharia law and denouncing gender inequality and restrictions on polygamy,
some of whom were responsible for the September 2012 ransacking and burning of the American embassy and school following the assassination of two leftist politicians Chokri Belaid
(in February 2013) and Mohamed Brahmi
(in July 2013). During this 2013–14 Tunisian political crisis
enraged secularists demanded the government step down or even a Sisi-style coup, while Ennahda militants defiantly opposed early elections, even booing Ghannouchi's calls for sacrifice for national unity.
Nonetheless Ghanouchi worked with secularist leader Beji Caid Essebsi
to forge a compromise and on October 5 signed a "road map" whereby Ennahda would step down for a caretaker government after the new constitution was agreed upon and until new elections were held.
Both leaders were heavily criticized by their party rank and file and Ghannouchi received agreement from the Ennahda shura council only by threatening to resign.
In January 2014, after the new Tunisian Constitution was approved, Ennahdha peacefully quit government and handed power to a technocratic government led by Mehdi Jomaa
. Ennahda placed second in the October 2014 parliamentary election
with 27.79% of the popular vote and formed a coalition government with the larger secularist party Nidaa Tounes
despite rank-and-file opposition.
Ennahda did not put forth a presidential candidate for the November 2014 election.
Ghanouchi "hinted broadly" that he personally supported Beji Caid Essebsi
(who won with over 55% of the vote).
Ghannouchi argued for these accommodating measures against more purist party members on the grounds that the country was still too fragile, and the economy too much in need of reform, for Ennahda to be in opposition.
Ghannouchi also gave his support to a crackdown on jihadi indoctrination at radical mosques (over 60 civilians, mostly tourists, were killed
in 2015 by jihadis, devastating Tunisia's tourist industry). Despite his Islamist background, he had always been "reviled" by jihadis, according to Robert Worth, and now appeared near "the top" of the jihadi "wanted list".
The Economist apology in 2011
On 22 October 2011, The Economist
published an apology on their website for previously publishing an article in which they attributed false statements to Ghannouchi. The article
claimed that Ghannouchi "opposes the country's liberal code of individual rights, the Code of Personal Status, and its prohibition of polygamy". The article, also, claimed that Ghannouchi "has threatened to hang a prominent Tunisian feminist, Raja bin Salama, in Basij Square in Tunis, because she has called for the country's new laws to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". The apology
stated that "we accept that neither of these statements is true: Mr Ghannouchi has expressly said that he accepts the Code of Personal Status; and he never threatened to hang Ms bin Salama. We apologise to him unreservedly."
The Independent apology in 2012
On 9 October 2012, The Independent
published an apology
on their website for suggesting, in a previous article, that the party Ghannouchi leads, Ennahdha (An Nahda) has been offered foreign funds. The apology stated: "we wish to make it clear that Mr Ghannouchi and his party have not accepted any donation from a foreign state in breach of Tunisian party funding laws. We apologise to Mr Ghannouchi."
BBC apology in 2013
On 17 May 2013, the BBC
published an apology on their website for previously publishing inaccurate statements about Ghannouchi six months earlier on 21 November 2012.
The article had accused Ghannouchi of threatening to order troops on to the streets if the Ennahdha Party did not get the results he expected in the elections in 2011, and suggested he condoned the violent Salafist attack on the United States embassy and the burning of the American School in Tunis
in September 2012.
Acknowledging that none of these accusations and suggestions were in fact true, the retraction concluded: "The BBC apologises to Mr Ghannouchi for these mistakes and for the distress they caused him."
Libel case in 2020
In 2020, the UK High Court ruled in favour of Ghannouchi, in a libel case against Middle East Online
and its editor Haitham El Zobaidi. The Middle East Online (MEO) and one of its editors had claimed that Ennahda
"supported terrorism", a charge Ghannouchi "vigorously denied". According to Ahmed Yusuf, the article was part of a ""a systematic campaign" against Ghannouchi from media backed by Saudi Arabia
, the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) and Egypt
Views and background
Ghannouchi's willingness to compromise with secularists in Tunisia and his country's unique success in maintaining a democratic system following the Arab Spring has been credited by at least one observer (Robert Worth
) to his background. Unlike many Islamists, Ghannouchi "lived abroad for decades, reading widely in three languages", including Western thinkers Karl Marx
, Sigmund Freud
and Jean-Paul Sartre
. He admired the courage of leftists who protested in the streets against the dictatorship, were arrested and tortured in prison, and became willing to work with them.
Watching the initial victory of the Algerian Islamists
—while exiled in London—collapse into the slaughter, mayhem and defeat of the civil war
, left a deep impact.
According to Azzam S. Tamimi, he was influenced by Malik Bennabi
and his treatise "Islam and Democracy", which laid "the foundations" for Ghannouchi's "masterpiece" Al‐Hurriyat al‐'Ammah
In 2002, an unsympathetic Western source (Martin Kramer
) described him as differing "from other Islamists" in his insistence "that Islam accepts multi-party democracy."
In 2015, he told French journalist Olivier Ravanello that homosexuality should not be criminalized, though he opposed gay marriage.
He has been interviewed by Michael Moore
in Where to Invade Next
and stated that homosexuality is a "private affair."
Chatham House prize in 2012, Ghannushi and Marzouki.
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Last edited on 22 April 2021, at 11:43
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