Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shangri-La Watch: Islamist Leader Seeks Return to Tunisia

View taken on January 18, 2011 shows a cloud of tear gas on Bourguiba avenue in Tunis during a demonstration.

Islamist leader hope to make play for power in oppressive Tunisia:

...unlike extremist movements, it supports democracy, a multi-party system, and human rights.

"In Tunisia, Islam was always a positive force, and it must remain that way," Mr. Mekki said.

If you replace Islam with the word communism ~ then it gives a better picture of the type of freedoms one can expect. Under Islamic rule Muslims freely give over their religious rights to the state ~ who then see it as an opportunity to take away other rights. Muslims do it every time. In search of their utopia ~ in the form of religious authority ~ they end up with dictatorships. But if they would just take their religion into the private sphere ~ and get the government out of religious matters to do with a personal nature or consensual matters ~ then they could better deal with governments that would erode rights.

A government that controls whether or not a person can have a girlfriend/boyfriend ~ is a government that can ~without difficulty~ orchestrate control over other areas which violate basic human rights and freedoms. Muslims under the Islamic system of law/ governance are asking to be oppressed. They are asking for abuse.

PARIS—The leader in exile of Tunisia's Islamic movement Ennahdha wants to return home but is waiting for the new government to declare a full amnesty on sentences passed during the rule of recently ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, Ennahdha officials said Tuesday.

Ennahdha's founder Rachid Ghannouchi "is an ordinary Tunisian citizen who must be allowed to come in and out of Tunisia without restrictions," said Samir Dilou, a lawyer and a senior leader of the movement in Tunisia.

Created in 1981 and formally known as the Movement of the Islamic Trend, Ennahdha was never formally authorized in its three-decade existence.

In 1992, Mr. Ghannouchi was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment on charges that he had plotted to overthrow Mr. Ben Ali. Many local activists were also imprisoned. Mr. Ghannouchi, who lives in London, has denied that he or his party tried to topple Mr. Ben Ali.

Mr. Dilou said that, while waiting for the return of its founder, Ennahdha was considering ways to reshape itself into a political force that could help create a multi-party system in Tunisia.

He said that although Mr. Ben Ali had tried to portray Ennahdha as an extremist group and an offshoot of al Qaeda, the movement rejects violence and promotes the values of "a moderate Islam."

"We don't need to import solutions from Tora Bora," Mr. Dilou said, in reference to the one-time hide-out of Taliban and al Qaeda militants in eastern Afghanistan.

Current and former diplomats in Tunisia say Mr. Ghannouchi represents a moderate Islamic voice, and say he has long espoused democracy and pluralism.

Mr. Dilou, who spent 10 years in prison in the 1990s on charges that he was close to Ennahdha, said it was too early to say whether the movement would participate in the next presidential elections because the group had to first reorganize itself.

"No need to hide it—we were caught off guard by the popular uprising," said Mr. Dilou. "It means we have to be self-critical, take a good look at ourselves and see what we can propose for Tunisia."

Abdellatif Mekki, another Ennahdha leader in Tunisia, said the movement needs to count its members because many are in exile and some were, until recently, in prison.

"Still, I think it's fair to say that we represent the main opposition force," Mr. Mekki said.

He said that if it participates in elections, Ennahdha will likely pair up with non-religious parties to stress that, unlike extremist movements, it supports democracy, a multi-party system, and human rights.

"In Tunisia, Islam was always a positive force, and it must remain that way," Mr. Mekki said.


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