Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi returns to Tunisia. What's his next move?
Moderate Islamist leader Rachid Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia from exile Sunday, insisting that he's a democratic Islamist leader and that he will not run for office.
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But Ghannouchi returns as the upheaval in Tunisia continues to wind down. Al Jazeera reported Thursday that Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi (no relation to Rachid Ghannouchi) reshuffled his cabinet for the second time since Ben Ali's ouster, removing several ministers whom protesters opposed as being a continuation of Ben Ali's government. Prime Minister Ghannouchi said that the new cabinet was "a temporary government with a clear mission - to allow a transition to democracy," and its members had been determined in consultaion with all political groups involved.
Although Rachid Ghannouchi has said that he plans to make Ennahda into an active Tunisian political party, he says he has no plans to run for office himself. In an interview with the Financial Times earlier this month, he said that "I have no political aspirations myself, neither for standing as a minister, for parliament or president. Some are presenting me as a Khomeini who will return to Tunisia – I am no Khomeini."
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A pro-democracy Islamist?
He also told the Times that he believes democracy and Islam are compatible, noting that he himself came under criticism from Islamists for his pro-democracy stance.
[When I first came to the UK], I gave a lecture Manchester University in which I said democracy should not exclude communists. At the time, this was rejected strongly by Islamists who saw it as accepting atheism. I said that it is not ethical for us to call on a secular government to accept us, while once we get to power we will eradicate them. We should treat people like-for-like. As the Prophet Muhammad said, one should wish for his brother what he wishes for oneself. And Kant said you should use your behavior as your base for treating the rest of humanity.
At the time this was alien to political thought [among UK-exiled Arab Islamists] and I was described as a secularist and part of a secularist movement because I called for democracy that does not exclude anyone.