“Moderate” Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi Returns To Tunisia


When it comes to revolt and revolution in the Muslim/Arab world, be careful what you wish for, because things might take a turn for the worse. From a Reuters report on MSNBC regarding Tunisia

Leading Tunisian Islamist Rachid Ghannouchi returned home Sunday from 22 years in exile, witnesses said. Thousands turned out to greet him at the airport.

His return is a powerful symbol of the change that has swept this country since its president was toppled by popular protests this month.

Supporters of Ghannouchi’s Ennahda movement, which had been banned for two decades, crowded into the arrivals area of the airport and held up banners reading: “No to extremism, yes to moderate Islam!” and “No fear of Islam!”

A group of about a dozen secularists were holding up banners reading: “No Islamism, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity!”

Reuters goes to great pains to paint Ghannouchi and Ennahda as “moderate Islamists“, yet, those of us who follow extremist Islam typically (note: I haven’t written much on it recently, yet, I still follow what’s going on) use the word “Islamist” to denote those who are extremists, i.e., call for following the full tenents of the Koran, such as Sharia law, dhimmitude, jihad, converting or killing the unbeliever, along with things such as destroying Western influence.

Now, Ghannouchi says all the right things, such as

“Our role will be to participate in realizing the goals of this peaceful revolution: To anchor a democratic system, social justice and to put a limit to discrimination against banned groups,” Ghannouchi told Reuters a day before his return.

Hmm, social justice, a good far left saying, but, that typically means something different in the Islamist world. See “Iran”.

But, is he really a “moderate?” Um, not so much. The US government has consistently denied him a visa. He has actively embraced the beliefs of the Muslim Brotherhood. And

Ghannouchi not only denounced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the “colossal crime” of inviting the U.S. to deploy forces, he also fully justified Saddam’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Ghannouchi compared Saddam 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. According to Ghannouchi, 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.”1 Although other Islamists criticized Saudi Arabia, none embraced Saddam as fervently as Ghannouchi.

Ghannouchi also threatened the United States. Speaking in Khartoum during the crisis, he said, “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.2

OK, you’ll say, that was 20 years ago. Do you think his views have changed? Or, become more fixed and stronger? He actively agitates against peace between Arabs and Israel. He is a virulent anti-Zionist. He has praised Palestinian Intifadas. Then there is

Ghannouchi is the leader in-exile of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahada (aka Ennahda, Al Nahda) and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood by 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. Al-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.

If we want to make a distinction between extremist and moderate by saying that the former actually propagates violent actions and the latter just spreads hardcore Islam, then, sure, he’s a “moderate.” He has stated that the west, not Islam, is the enemy of democracy. And now he is taking advantage of the situation in Tunisia to return and incite his followers, and perhaps become part of the government. Yes, we would like to spread democracy around the world. Yet, we have seen what happens with some, such as Hamas and Hezbollah becoming part of the government in countries and areas around the Western Middle East. Islamists act like moderates to work to change the system from within in many Middle Eastern, Asian, and European countries, often assisted by well meaning dupes (read “Progressives”). So be careful what you push for in Egypt.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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