• November 2, 2006
  • 105 minutes read

Al-Ghannoushi : Ben Ali’s regime aims to destroy Tunisian people

Al-Ghannoushi : Ben Ali’s regime aims to destroy Tunisian people

Rashid Al-Ghannoushi : Ben Ali’s regime aims to destroy Tunisian people’s Islamic opposition, identity


His ideological fatwas and directions are stemming from a down to earth understanding of every day incidents; he is one of a few figures whose statements and fatwas reflect a clear understanding of texts and linking them to reality; he is an icon of the Islamic movement facing political corruption and oppression; the London-based sheikh Rashid Al-Ghannoushi- the chief of the Tunisian Al-Nahda (Renaissance) movement– is the symbol of mature Islamic thought who understands how to link texts with reality.


We had this long interview with sheikh Rashid Al-Ghannoushi in which we tackled the status of the Tunisian Al-Nahda (Renaissance) movement and the political status quo there in addition to how Muslims live in the West and the most important problems that they face.


1-All of us know the black historical days which Tunisia lived during Bourguiba’s era who repeatedly tried to give a death blow to the Islamic movements and their members and to link Tunisia to the West; I ask you Sir: do you see a difference between Bourguiba ’s Tunisia and nowadays’ Tunisia, particularly after the latest referendum on president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, giving him (like all Islamic and Arab countries) a life long rule?.


Rashed Al-Ghannoushi: There is no big difference in terms of attitude and method between the master (Bourguiba ) and his apprentice (Ben Ali); however, the master was more of and ideologist: he adored the West and its civilization, and hated Islam, its civilization, followers and institutions; the phrase that outlines Bourguiba ’s philosophy and method is “keeping in touch with civilized nations”; thus, his enmity to the Islamic movement is just a part of his enmity to Islam; he was so angry with people’s close relation to Allah, His messenger and his holly Book, because he felt this a downgrade to his personal position and pompousness like Fir’awn who said ” I am your god in the sky” “you believe in what I see as right”; he exclaims how people give a high esteem to an illiterate man (Mohamed PBUH) while he (a Sorbonne graduate)  sees himself as deserving this most; thus, he mocked at the Quran and miracles of prophets to the extent of defying the holy pillar of Fasting when he called on his people- in the first day of the holy month of Ramadan while drinking a glass of wine- to not to follow this heavenly order under the pretext of fighting backwardness.

 Thus, scholars like sheikh Bin Baz, Egypt’s former Mufti sheikh Ali Al-Khafif and India’s reputed scholar Aby Al-Hassan Al-Nadwi called him on to repent this, but he went on in his violations recklessly; when the Tunisians expressed their belief in their religion in the 1970s through the emergence of the Islamic movement which restored life to mosques nd returned Islam back to modernist institutions (schools, universities….) he couldn’t bear this for a long time and he reconciliated with Leftist movements to pour his rage over the Islamic movement since early 1980s, threatening with emptying Tunisia of every Muslim Brotherhood member as long as he is alive. Since then, Tunisia’s prisons has been always hosting Islamists; in 1981, the sentencing trials included some 500 persons who spent 4 years behind bars; because they didn’t repent this- according to him- he launched a crackdown on them- two years later- with more rage and force so that his detentions were up to some 10000 Islamists whose sentences were up to execution; the crackdown was spearheaded by his Interior Minister who rebelled against him later and succeeded him in power to release prisoners and he declared preparing Tunisia for a democratic life and restoring esteem and respect to Islam and Arabism; people were happy about this and they – including the Islamic movement- supported this. However, in the first elections held during the “new era”, in which the Islamic movement participated with independent slates, given that it wasn’t recognized, although it was demanding legalization since early 1980s, the Islamic movement garnered most votes, but the regime didn’t stop short of rigging the results only, but it decided to punish the winners through eradicating them. Moreover, it brought closer the enemies of Islam and gave them power over education and media institutions, under a plan entitled (drying sources) based on the fact that eradicating the Islamic movement as a political rival doesn’t take a final shape except through eradicating every thing related to Islamic culture in the society’s values and traditions; it closed thousands of mosques in administrative, economic and educational institutions, and banned religious lessons in mosques to extent that performing the prayers at the mosque became a way of recognizing fundamentalists; also, police stations were ordered to table monthly statistical rolls of those committing the prayers especially young men. Prisons were filled with some 30000 Islamic preachers and movement leaders and torture became a systematic method; also, slow death plans were imposed on prisoners: giving little water, air and blocking medicine…etc till more than 40 companions died- we ask Allah to consider them martyrs; also, the prisoners’ families faced plans of crunching starvation and siege; the Tunisian woman was forced to take off the veil in schools, universities, administrations and factories, even government hospitals were banned from dealing with pregnant veiled women who are about to give birth; veils are torn apart even in streets; all these and more were committed by Bourguiba  and his successor under glittering slogans: defending modernism, democracy, the civil society, and fighting extremism and terrorism, finding a great funding for this from protectors of Western democracy.  


With all this hidden scheming against Islam and its followers and against freedom and real urbanization ( for more information see book: Tunisia: Injured Islam. written by Sheikh Mohamed Al Hadi Al Zamzami); they have failed in dragging the movement into the quagmire of violence as it is an epidemic, not a medicine, and they failed in eradicating religiousness, as there emerged in the last years a sweeping wave of religiousness whose size haven’t been seen before in the country in terms of its likes, size and extending to all directions, classes and ages; the veil returned along with the aspects of Islam and chastity to fill Tunisian streets; also, the authorities failed completely in alienating or eradicating the movement; contacts between it and the political opposition fabric with its different spectrum have recently returned on the basis of defending public freedoms and equal rights for all Tunisians whatever their trends are; in return, the authorities took the path of westernization, broadening circles of angry and resentful people due to looting people’s livings, welding mouths shut and emptying the political and media discourse of every content except hypocrisy specially after the president finished his three terms three years ago and he should have left; nevertheless, he insisted on copycatting his ancestor of a lifelong presidency and he deviated with the constitution in a referendum that reminds us of Ceausescu and Brezhnev’s referendums opening the way for a lifelong presidency like his Egyptian mate in ” a single path”, defending family interests that inflate day after day working day and night on looting the public wealth, something that widened the circle of unemployment even among high graduates and escalated the state of congestion within the arenas of mainstream political, religious and media repression to put the country in a state of potential various explosions specially that authorities have kept on shutting their ears so as not to hear or respond to all demands of reform and openness, even those simple demands adopted by the broadest circle of opposition parties ( 18 October movement) which includes liberals, communists, Islamists, Nationalists and Leftists; these simple demands are outlined in the following: freedom of expression, freedom of forming societies and parties, and releasing prisoners.


2-The Islamic movement in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria went through different experiences with the ruling regimes in their governments, could you give us a brief note about points of agreement and disagreement between the Islamic movement groups in those countries, and possibilities of cooperation and coordination between them, specially under the geographical and cultural closeness between the Arab Maghreb countries?


Rashed Al-Ghannoushi: The Arab Maghreb countries were called the Islamic Maghreb; Arabism and Islam in the region’s heritage are about to mix up as we converted to Islam and we got Arabized afterwards; the more deep Islam is rooted, the more deep is Arabism. Everything targeting Arabic language and its culture is necessarily targeting Islam and its civilization.

 These five countries are adopting Sunni Islam according to Ibn Malik’s school- except for a small group of compatriots who converted to Al-Abadyah and they are integrated into the region’s fabric. The region is considered fronts defending Islam against the Western Major nations:  Spain, France and Italy, which stormed into them aiming to include  them and even Christianize them, but the great religion of Islam defeated them; nevertheless, the French cultural factor kept- if not increased- its effect after independence through the elite group that was formed under occupation – except – and it assumed power and the conflict continued between peoples who continued yearning to the east and a ruling elite that yearned to the West specially France; although the conflict battlefields are various but this field remains the hottest and deepest one; this is clear in issues like Iraq and Lebanon; this means that the conflict over the region’s identity is remained tense till since the occupation came to the region till now; the Islamic movement has been leading those confronting powers of westernization that assume power, using it for imposing a westernized identity on the region and trying to separate it from its Islamic Arab body. This conflict is severely intensified in Tunisia and Algeria, where it isn’t confined to the cultural linguistic dimensions, but it exceeds it to the religious dimension: a continuous war against Islam under allegations of modernism; this attributes the size of violence exercised over Islamists in both countries specially in 1990s, after the Islamic movement in both countries garnered most votes ( April 1989 in Tunisia ) and in 1992 in Algeria. The Moroccan movement has understood the lesson and decided to retreat to avoid a similar fate, although the cultural conflict (the identity conflict) in the Far Maghreb is not raised because of the country’s religious nature, giving space for a possible coexistence with a moderate Islamic movement like the Al-Tawheed Wal-Islah and its political extension: the Justice and Development, and imposed the secular movements to recognize- after bitter conflicts- this identity and to adapt itself with it, in a way or another; therefore, the size of oppression on the Islamic movement was and is still limited despite the kinds of oppression and bullying imposed on our brothers in the widest spread movement of justice and charity, although it adopts a peaceful and educational method; perhaps because of its intense criticism to policies of the authorities and the echoing effect on the people; however, the oppression hasn’t crossed the line of adopting policies of eradication, like what happened in both countries: Algeria and Tunisia, but the latter country adopted another plan called” drying springs”, based on the fact that the Islamists must be eventually eradicated given that they are a political rival in order to end the Islamic cultural heritage in the society, as was mentioned above. Although the suppression machine in Algeria that claimed lives of no less than 200000 Algerians, focused its repression on the Islamic Front and districts that supported it in the elections, it did not follow the Tunisian method in considering all Islamists terrorists; it left a space for individual religious exercises, including prayers, veil and education (Islamic books), to the extent that it kept alive peaceful Islamic movements and even included some of them in the rule, like the Movement for the Society of Peace; however, “the drying springs” plan is taking place there also, but with the lesser fuss; in Tunisia since the beginning of the independence, the religious education was eradicated represented in Al Zaytouna mosque which is considered the first institution for a religious education in Africa after Kairouan; on the day of independence (1956) no less than 27000 persons were receiving being taught inside it; it was abolished at once in the name of unifying education, that is Frenchifying it; something like this happened in Algeria; the religious education system (the original education) that was founded after the independence and was similar to Al Zaytouna mosque system and which was a system parallel to the public school, was abolished in the last years; also, the Arabization program was stopped despite the bitter conflicts that took place around it, and presidents were toppled because of it. What you need is only a look at the Algerian television to know the size of metamorphosis facing the Islamic Arab identity in Algeria: a non harmonious mix up of Arab and French (for more information see the book of the Algerian historian Dr. Ahmed Ibn Nouman : learn identity even from France). The author reports details about a plan targeting the pillars of identity, leading to a seemingly belief in what General Degol promised the Far Rightist while convincing them with giving the Algerians their independence ( give me a 30 years chance and Algeria will return to you). Anyway, it accepted for the first time to attend the organization of the Francophone countries.

However, what is apparent is that Islam along the region is on the rise: mosque goers are doubling even in countries that applied the fiercest plans of political and cultural eradication like Tunisia; the interest in Islamic materials, specially in satellite channels is wonderfully increasing;  and the westernized extension is decreasing despite the official support. Politically speaking, there are some indications that there is a trend towards reconciliation between the state and the Islamic movement, but it is in a mixed mood; what is certain is that it is not on the rise or in a steady growth. This includes a rising tension in the last months with the justice and charity and arresting hundreds of its supporters and bullying its Da’wa and media actions; also, hundreds of the supporters of the Salafi call faced a severe oppression and some of them are accused of violence. Also, hundreds of young men in Tunisia were arrested and faced the anti-terrorism law for suspecting that they incite themselves on jihad in Iraq, or open jihad websites.

In return for this, in Mauritania, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia, prisoners ( thousands in the Algerian reconciliation project led by president Bouteflika) were released in Mauritania, Tunisia and Libya during the past year where the latter country released all Muslim Brothers and kept those accused in violence cases, while Tunisia kept about 500 prisoners in prison, nearly half of them are Nahda cadres who are mostly leaders and the others are accused in violence cases.

There are reports of dialogues and reconciliation projects in Mauritania and Libya. On the other hand, in Tunisia- the authorities still insist on denying a presence of political prisoners. They view them as terrorist criminals and they still reject all Nahda’s reform calls, showing a sense of unreformability, exposing the country to explosions. In Algeria, the proposed reconciliation project is not exceeding the human dimension; although it is important, but it does not open the wound to cure the disease, but it leaves some of its pus; the authorities insist on being biased to the side that caused the tragedy with stopping the election process ( the army ) clearing it of any responsibility and even dealing with it as if it has saved the country, while they condemn the victim politically, depriving it of its rights in the political action, but it reconciles with it humanly, allowing it to stay alive.

This is the status quo of the Islamic case in the Arab Maghreb: mixed and cloudy and searches for a settlement. As long as there is a political denial of exercising political rights which is focused on a certain movement, specially when it is peaceful, we are in front of a danger of unpleasant surprises and an accumulation of spites and possible various reactions unless the political the political, cultural and media mainstream is opened to contain all citizens on an equal footing to contribute to serving their country. That is because the eases that took place- although they are important- haven’t crossed the human dimension to reach the political one: an exchange of recognition between the country and all society components, specially the Islamic given that they are the most deeply rooted and well established side in the society, making recognizing them and reaching settlements with them a key measure in the progress of retard of the process of democratic change in a certain country.

Facing the regimes’ hesitation- if not their refusal- in seriously adopting the path of a democratic change and their insistence on adopting ” a conditioned democracy”, the general trend of the Islamic movements confirm their rejecting the method of violence and insisting on a peaceful way within framework of the existing laws, but the governments do not meet this warmly, but it appears as if that they want an amount of violence to continue ( under control) so as to justify the authorities’ continuing policies of closed doors and iron fist and to excuse their belonging to the international anti-terrorism camp, and reaping financing and benefits from this.

In general, it is clear that violence decreased to a great extent in Algeria and stopped in Libya, but the domestic closed atmospheres, the rise of international attacks on Islam and the presence of international jihad models established new trends seeking force among youth. There are hundreds of young men arrested in every country for this.

As for the cooperation between the Islamic movements in this are, it is limited and did not exceed the level of personal and brotherly relations to the level of systematic organized relations, because every side is preoccupied with its state level concerns and because situations are different and the dominating state of oppression that doesn’t provide fields of organized meetings and exchange of experience.


3-What is the human rights and humane status quo in Tunisia under Ben Ali’s regime?


Rashed Al-Ghannoushi: it was bad during his ancestor’s era, and its is much worse during his era; the country’s history hasn’t witnessed an era like this when the human dignity has been violated, honors were abused, public manners were ruined and the structure of the family was ruined to the extent that Tunisia is the only country in the Third World which is facing the danger of senility and primary schools no longer find its intakes of children because of abstaining from marriage, birth control and increasing divorces. Prisons haven’t housed such a huge number before ( 30 thousand prisoners) while the official discourse is talking day and night with a language of modernism and human rights, emptying the language of its content; for example, while torturing has been stably systematized and followed in all security stations, a decree was issued of teaching the general declaration of human rights in all schools and even hanging it on walls of security stations. As for religious rights of Muslims, they have reached the limit of hunting those committing the prayers and banning the Islamic book even the classic ones; the Quran was banned and desecrated in prisons, and the prisoners were denied committing the prayers except during their specific times. Don’t mention thereafter about the freedom of expression, as all media praise the creator of change and the protector of the dignity of the country and religion. Don’t mention political rights as the president’s approval rating hasn’t decreased since he assumed power less than 95% if it decreased once from about 99 % an so has been his party which is has been assuming power for 50 years ( the only party in the world assuming power for such a period) and it left as a kind of favor a 20% steady rate of parliament seats for the tamed opposition parties to distribute among themselves although all of them can’t manage to garner 5 % of the votes. What shall I tell you? it is a very low farce with a scenario and actors, it is even a tragic farce. The Tunisian people certainly deserve better than this; the proof is that prisons are full of freemen from all trends, and a plethora of repression groups up to 130 thousand persons who repress a population of no more than 10 million citizens. Their number equals one million if compared to the Egyptian population, in addition to a presence of a political opposition union and student movement but the law of fear controls with a European, American and Zionist support.


4-How many detainees are there in Tunisian prisons; what is the status quo of Tunisian prisons?


Rashid Al-Ghannoushi:  the abovementioned is enough for grieving the one. It is true that the number in the early 1990s was about 30000 of the Nahda cadres and leaders in addition to 200 displaced, and that there remain in prisons nowadays only about 300 of Nahda and they serve long sentences as if they are sentenced to a slow, gradual death and dozens of them died due to this; nevertheless, the problem today isn’t in those who are behind bars because their issue is crystal clear and demanding releasing them is under a national consensus and is called for by the International Rights Organizations; but the problem lies more in the thousands who were released from a small prison to an expanded one and are deprived even of the right of free movement from one place to another, except with a permit and are denied rights to work in government services and companies; they are even ordered to appear in a security center periodically. They and their families are denied even the card of free treatment. But they are despite the bullying inside small and expanded prisons enjoy high morales and have memorized the Book of Allah, and they are optimistic that the victory of Allah will certainly come, and they are admired and appreciated in their villages, cities and among the next new generations that flock into mosques in groups. It is a great ordeal that Islam and freedom haven’t witnessed before, but is coming to an end, God willing (and the great tidings are for the pious) we ask Allah that they be from among them.

– There are some who criticize your remaining an opposition in exile, considering that opposition inside is better and more effective; how far is the opposition in exile beneficial?


Rashid Al-Ghannoushi: the ordeals afflicting followers of the Da’wa in themselves, their money, through throwing them in prisons, displacing them and killing them are a steady tradition. Allah Exhalted He Be said ” And the rejecters plot against you to arrest you, or to kill you, or to expel you. And they plot, and God plots, and God is the best of plotters ” Al-Anfal. The truth is that I did not choose to go to exile; I left the country intending to give a lecture in Germany and invitations followed each others till the situation in the country became tense after the authorities rigged the elections; I consulted my brothers who demanded that I stay abroad until everything becomes clear; after that, detentions intensified, until an emergence of a leadership inside was considered impossible; a number of brothers managed to escape through deserts and they met in a European country while I was staying in Britain without a passport; they consulted each other on the issue and they decided to have a decision in exile and they elected an interim leadership and a shura council and a position of a leader which I assumed. The authorities did not stop short of including us in the list of international criminals to deport us and weld our mouths shut, as prisons that managed to contain 30 thousand persons still have a space for us. We are distributed on about fifty countries; we kept, thanks to God, the unity of our group and its ideological and educational aspects and we kept- thanks to God- the movement’s cause and injustices on it alive and we tabled it before all Muslims and human rights organizations and we aborted the authorities plot of incriminating us and putting us in terrorism lists; also, these in exile managed to establish a media work and establish relief institutions to support prisoners’ families while the authorities’ plan is to starve them and exercise a pressure on the sisters to get divorced from their husbands or to get basically corrupted, as quoted from the Interior Minister. Also, we contacted the Tunisian political opposition spectrum in exile and inside and we held joint seminars that established a joint work ” 18 October institution” that was founded last year to gather the most important opposition movements. These tasks may be simple and they did not help in changing the status quo; we don’t claim that we left the country to change it through correspondence, because clean change- not through occupation tanks- won’t take place except from inside; We did not leave the country mainly to change it, but to remain alive, which is one of our Sharia purposes, and to do any thing useful to Muslims after that including publishing books, participating in seminars and holding dialogues like this, which are of God’s bounty; they can’t be afforded in prisons which are places that every Muslim should avoid; I replied to an enthusiastic young man who asked me to return back to homeland that: I spent five years in prison, I was received two life sentences on absentia while one is enough, what is the place awaiting me if return today? Is it wise to add a prisoner to thousands whom we demand their release? It is right that my chances to have effects from exile are limited but what are the available chances inside? The trends whatever their directions are- religious or irreligious- face before assuming power kinds of testing and living in exile is one of them. The one can only ask stability from Allah in any trench of testing which he is facing.


– What is your evaluation of the performance of Al-Qaeda network; don’t you see that it draws the rag from under moderate Islamic movements under the extending US and Zionist domination and the massacres happening to Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon and others; do you see this a recession of moderate Islamic thought and a spread of the violence ideology?


Rashid Al-Ghannoushi: A-we are basically ordained to have a good opinion about believers. Those familiar with jihad groups in general and the first generations in particular say that they are religious and they seek Allah approval with their actions, considering afflictions as actions for the sake of Allah, fasting at day and praying at night and that they devoted and sacrificed themselves to Allah Glorified and Exalted be He, belittling all worldly pleasures, and chose the way leading to the afterworld, seeking God’s bounty and satisfaction; they are our brothers in religion and we appreciate their concerns about Islam and their defending it and their nation; we ought to keep their Muslim-on Muslim’s rights, including the right to support, the legitimate support, not the one related to pre-Islamic beliefs. We talk about them within this part, because it is not related to souls and intentions, and it does not violate their sanctity, but it is concentrated on products of their minds, including concepts of Islam and the status quo of Muslims and the international relations, and methods of change, here is the serious disorder, or fatal mistakes.

B- What I know about Al-Qaeda group is the ideologies reported from hardliners including Takfir and one-sidedness in viewing Islam and restricting methods of change to the fighting jihad; this is included in the method of simplification and strictness specially in complicated issues like the issue of change. Whatever the epidemics hitting societies, the group has no cure but takfir and jihad. Because the status quo is severely  intermingled, the simplified solutions aren’t beneficial, quickly realizing that the strict moulds can’t cure the complications of the status quo. They declared forming an international front for fighting the Jews and Christians, regarding as lawful fighting even those who don’t fight them including morning train passengers, civil planes and markets goers as a revenge on their governments. Then, they retreated, saying that they do not fight all Christians. The evidence is that they did not target Swedish and Swiss peoples.

They declared in Iraq through their representative- Allah’s mercy be on him, excommunicating a group of Muslims: the Shiites: and they launched an over all war against it; the Shiites- who rule the country and are backed by many- retaliated with a more severe war against the Sunnis, although the Sunni scholars inside and outside Iraq renounced the aggression that they commit in the name of Islam; consequently, the shameful works and reckless reactions on them ended and they endangered one of the greatest Islamic countries to a state of disaster and mass destruction in addition to what the occupation commits and adds to its purposes; this was of the biggest disasters that befell the contemporary Islam and the fabric of its nation: identity killing in a blatant challenge to one of greatest rules in fight: protecting the Muslim blood, and the rule of individual responsibility ” no burdened soul can bear another’s burden”, igniting fire of seditions in the nation’s body and presaging the worst repercussions, in a precedent that hasn’t taken place in Islamic history except during the time of the Khariji.


C: When Lebanon was invaded by the Zionists and the braves of Hezbollah got out and defeated them and they showed a great bravery, reviving in the nation the spirit of honour and restored the hurt dignity and the feelings of chivalry; the Islamic publics took to the streets in happiness, solidarity and protest, raising the pictures of Al-Sayyed Nasrallah as a symbol of the brave resistance and the resumed honour; Al-Qaeda group appeared in the wrong timing as usual with a sense of insistence on popping out amid the scene, to exclude an isolation in the nation, and what has it said? It declared supporting Lebanon’s people, not because this is one of the simplest rights from a Muslim on his Muslim brother, because they aren’t considered one of the Muslim sects, but because they are weak, oppressed people whom the world must support! Without involvement in defining the religion of these oppressed Lebanese: are they Jewish or Christians? are the Shiites from among them? Here is the confusion.


D- But for the injustices targeting Muslims from the Western powers and but for the procrastination of Muslim rulers and the spread of ignorance among Muslims, such a confusion and laxness and strictness wouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t have found followers; but in all cases they couldn’t harm the moderate broad movement, because strictness has never been adopted by the Nation as it is too sterile to create a consensus among its people; the Nation does not have a consensus except on moderation “and we have made you (true Muslims) a moderate nation”; therefore, they failed in speaking in the name of Islam and being its mouthpiece and exercising a guardianship that may narrow what is widened by Allah and gave His slaves the right to differ and have diligence over it, so that Islam remains capable of guiding reality whatever its developments and complications and to contain Muslims, nay all mankind, with its mercy; this because accountability over creeds is attributed to Allah ( you will return to me to tell about what you have been differing).


E- Hamas movement has used its reason and diligence and chose the fighting method in its dealing with the Zionist enemy and was excellent, while it chose the democratic peaceful action to deal with its people through accepting the mechanisms of democracy as a method for rule and reform; the hard-line group popped up to consider democracy as Kufr and rebukes Hamas, assuming that democracy is unlawful, and that the only thing possible for reform is fighting all people. It is a simplistic method while issues on the ground are very complicated; therefore, the Sharia gave multiple solutions; it ordered changing evil while it opened more than one way to achieve this according to what is available. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said ” Whoever sees something evil should change it with his hand. If he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot do even that, then in his heart” the regulations of this rule show that every way to change evil leads to its aggravation is not a virtue but evil. The size of disasters caused by the Takfir method adopted by the hard-line groups is obvious; they didn’t press for lifting injustices over the Islamic nation, but they led to more instigation on Islam and its people and to distort its picture and isolate its followers and minorities. And So does the fool against himself severer than what the one does against his enemy.

F- The consequences of those adopting- as a method of reform- Takfir and fighting atheists and those disagreeing with their sect, and the moderate method as a method of upbringing and distinguishing between the fighting infidels- a small group- and the peaceful infidels- they are many. Allah Exalted He Be said ” Allah does not forbid you respecting those who have not made war against you on account of (your) religion, and have not driven you forth from your homes, that you show them kindness and deal with them justly;” Al-Mumtahanah; and distinguishing between monotheists and atheists. The result of the call of reform in Egypt for example is clear- with commitment to a peaceful method, gradation and upbringing, as an only way for dealing with the nation’s problems whatever their complications are, against fighting those attacking Muslim nations, compared with the fruits of the method of declaring jihad against the state and its aides and then fighting all. The first method led Egypt- despite the huge plotting and obstacles- to a broad development for the Islamic movement through all sections, classes and authorities to the extent that a Western scholar said about Egypt ” Egypt has adopted Islamism to the neck”, and it is near certain that the Muslim Brotherhood has become the most important popular power and the widest in representation among Egyptian elites, and that the issue of its reaching the stage of assuming power is- God willing- is a matter of time. Add to this its fighting the occupying invaders in the canal and fighting in Palestine, and supporting the militants defending their homelands everywhere: in Lebanon and others; on the other hand, the hard-line movement ended after a long journey of disasters they afflicted them and the Egyptian society through them, to enable the repression services to dominate people and to impose an emergency law under the pretext of fighting terrorism, indulging the country in corruption. The only benefit for the leaders of these groups is that they learned in prisons and became certain that religion is wider than what they imagined, and the reality on the ground is more complicated than what they thought, and they did not hesitate in declaring there adopting the right path and repenting the darkness they experienced in understanding religion and understanding the reality; they returned to the method of Islamic moderation, apologizing to the Egyptian society for what they committed against it in their enthusiasm and youth accompanied by little understanding, saying this in published books. What the hard-line movement and the nation reaped was just igniting seditions and Takfirs inside and instigating foreign powers from the outside. How can it pull the rag from under the moderate movement; as a matter of fact, the nation is infallible as a whole from deviation.


7- The important issue that all people agreed on is that the fatal epidemic on the Islamic action is the absence of freedom in its full meaning. The successful model for an Islamic action depends on a space of freedom and political and economic security. The question is why do some Islamic movements fear from approving the political freedom which is available for all as long as the Islamic action depends on it? Specially the secular section that does not want to consider freedom to be serving Islam; on the contrary, they delude others that it is contrary to Islam?


Rashed el-Ghannoushi: It is a confusing question .This sect of Muslim preachers who lived in prisons till they got bored of them, and executioners have been continuously whipping; why are they- the victims of repression- still fearing freedom and apprehending democracy and their effect on Islam: this reminds me of a Bedouin who was angry with the companions of the messenger of Allah- Allah’s peace be uon them- and he prayed ” O Allah have mercy me and have mercy on Mohamed and don’t have mercy on any one else” and the messenger peace be upon him laughed and said ” you have narrowed something wide, brother”. Why don’t they want the mercy of freedom which Allah made his slaves love and which was one of the purposes of sending the last messenger ” He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear (Al-A`râf:157). Why do they disdain that it includes all?. if there are two options: that it includes all, or that no one enjoys it: then let it be the second one: Shamshoun’s option is!; is the motive of some of those apprehensive of freedom is that enemies of religion may use it as a method for attacking and distrusting religion and its teachings; if it is so, alas; do they consider that religion is so weak and that Islam is such a cheap commodity! Don’t they remember that Islam spread in all civilizations and argued with their scholars and philosophers; history hasn’t recorded that any Muslim was defeated in a free debate; Muslims were witnesses for the right on creature; they studied all creeds and they took and gave them and they seized the widest place and contained entire civilizations and contained military invasions which they later changed them into fighters in a war against enemies and conquerors. While the nations of Islam had been at the bottom. Can any wise man imagines that such a resonant challenge ” Say (O Muhammad Peace be upon him), “Produce your proof if you are truthful” was revealed in empty castles, or in a lifeless valley? Can a reliable wrestler declare a challenge and request a duel while lacking a qualified rival? Is being the last prophet meaningful except that the all-Knower put in the structure of this religion an innate strength that not only guarantees keeping it but it guarantees its leading all religions?. Do not fear for Islam from freedom; it is the healthy climate in which it recovers and flourishes, while it is chocked to death in rotten climates, like what happened in countries that adopted communism. You may be right in fearing for yourselves like the one who used to live for long in darkness, fearing his sight on sun light in the first glimpse. Those who pity for Islam from what the secular groups may do if they enjoyed freedom, should before this fear themselves and Islam itself from the continuing eras of tyranny that led Islam, its civilization and its nation to deterioration. It is stunning that nowadays trend of migration is to outside Muslim nations not to them, and that Islam enjoys prosperity and an increasing extension in non Muslim countries due to enjoying the blessings of freedom and democracy which are in harmony with the spirit and purposes of Islam, while its climate waned and its people fled because of the dominant repression in most ” Muslim countries” to the extent that one of the most prominent reformers of the age declared that bitter fact after returning from a visit to Western countries that ” I left behind me Islam and I found here Muslims”. Fear freedom for Islam is an illusion that must come to end, and a deviation that the Muslim mind must be freed of, specially that the situation on the ground shows that our peoples remained- since they converted to Islam- adhering to it so much. After more than 150 years of westernization in Algeria and Tunisia, nothing confronted the Islamic tide in the first elections except the state tyranny. Even those little secular parties, they were exceptions that emerged in an exceptional stage will be overpowered by Islam and their followers who were fascinated by the West will return to Islam. Thus, we saw them amending their agendas to be in accordance with Islam and their leaders go to mosques nd go to the MB chairman seeking support. Why do you fear freedom? Is it from competition? It is a confusing matter which can only be attributed to a long living in darkness. Islam is light and light does not fear darkness. Suppose that most people fell in deviation because of freedom especially while living at a time the means of communication are widespread and no ideology can be kept in the dark; suppose that most of the nation strayed because of this freedom- an assumption that clashes with the principle that Islam is the religion of primordial nature, we should- in this case also- be more interested in keeping freedom as being a condition for returning people back to Allah’s religion and awakening them and removing ignorance that hid right from them.


8-Isn’t it time to declare frankly that Nahda Movement is ready to forget the past and return back to homeland to participate in developing it and reforming some of its affairs after it became clear that the movement leaders staying in exile does not benefit, but harms the cause and causes enmities and reduces the chances a national reconciliation?


Rashed Al-Ghannoushi: Since 1981, when the Islamic movement ” previously called the Islamic Trend ” and currently called Nahda, emerged, it has been seeking legalization and calling for a reconciliation with the state and its people and its religion and to recognize all its components, without discrimination, exclusion or falsification; but the state remained shutting its ears from hearing all calls for reform, and responded with continuing repression, displacement and going to extremes in mounting every international wave for launching the war on Islam. Egyptian people- specially the new Islamic generations- knew little about repression and didn’t knew repression when it was in its prime time; so it is difficult for them to imagine the kind of repression that befell Muslim people and freedom supporters, specially since early 1990s. you should- to be aware of the current Tunisian condition- imagine yourselves living in Egypt’s 1950s and 1960s and more than this specially on the religious level even with the intensity of the security political repression; Islam: as a culture, heritage, rituals and beliefs wasn’t eradicated as Al-Azhar remained working and it even expanded; the Islamic researches centre remained with Ghazali, Sayed Sabiq and Islamic writers; even Egypt that was copycatting the West led the East and although communism spread, but Arabism of Egypt wasn’t harmed and Islam kept its usual positions centers and the conflict leaned basically towards its political field. On the other hand, repression in Tunisia did not stop short of the political arena for excluding political rivals through security measures- where detentions included more than thirty thousand persons in a population not reaching 9 millions. The repression did not stop at this, but it was within a comprehensive plan of eradication and drying springs, as mentioned above. Therefore, it was difficult for the country to retreat from a plan that became its ideology in all its institutions and- on its basis- political powers were categorized between a friend and an enemy: those backing me or those backing terrorism. Also, the country adopted this strategy as an international policy which she boasts of in all international and regional meetings and does its best to  export it as being an elixir and cure for eradicating the epidemic of the age: fundamentalism, with insisting on refusing any discrimination between a moderate Islamist and a hardliner, considering it a distribution of roles. They adopted it as an international policy to benefit from it in setting aside every foreign pressure for the sake of freedom and human rights shielded with fighting the fundamentalist danger and terrorism; and they took it as a method for receiving Western aid under the pretext of fighting terrorism, specially that the Tunisian neighborhood was feared during the 1990s and the borders of southern Europe were threatened: Algeria was teeming with violence and Libya was in the other camp. Therefore, relations with Tunisia must be preserved with their defects; they sealed with it- in the peak of its repression- the first partnership agreement with a country in the South. However, these situations have witnessed changes during the last years. Tunisia lost its strategic importance with lifting the blockade on Libya and the stability of situations in Algeria. Also, the Tunisian society contained the fierce attack and the main political powers discovered the extent of the trick which they the authorities spread to extend its domination over all; ties of dialogue between it and Islamists took place and developed as mentioned above into joint seminars and activities; on the other hand, the spite and hate increased on authorities due to their institutions various kinds of looting and corruption while living pressures were intensified on people. The regime gets more isolated for fear of a coup making all calls for reform useless, something similar- regarding this- to the situations in Egypt. The coming few years or even months may witness important changes in more than one Arab country, because the degradation and deterioration are severe.” Allah’s decree will always prevail, but most among mankind know it not”.


9-Don’t you see that under the US terrible attack on every thing in our nations, there is no meaning for opposing rulers (who are basically subjected to US and European dictations) and that nowadays pressing issue is establishing the widest possible national coalition to confront- even in the minimum- the Western cultural, economic and ideological pressures? and that giving an interest to the ordinary citizen and to the torn out generations is more important than seeking rule or seeking a little foothold on the political arena in a country like Tunisia where values and manners are missing and family and human ties are disintegrated and sins and forbidden matters are unprecedentedly spread? from where does reform start?


Rashed el-Ghannoushi: in front of the all out wide attack that faces the region to the extent of the return of a direct occupation which was thought to be something of the past for the nation. Yesterday, I was stunned when I saw Western fleets reaching Lebanon’s port after they left above in early 1980s; they are returning again after 25 years though they are under UN flags. The United Nations has never been friendly to the Islamic nation!. When has the UN adopted justice?! Isn’t it a game in the hands of the major powers?! It was the one that offered Palestine to the international criminals, the Zionists; its injustices include the fact that the body governing the fate of the world ” the Security Council ” doesn’t include among its permanent members that possess the veto right one single Muslim country; they came to guard the Zionist entity- the dagger with which they stabbed the heart of the Nation- after signs of weakness appeared on it and was defeated in front of one single group of the Nation’s groups; what will happen if they let the whole Nation deal with it?. So they decided to send armies to protect it, while it was- in the primetime of its strength- refusing any protection so as to be free to do what ever it desires; nowadays, after it was bombarded for one month and its weakness appeared, it must be protected by the same powers that created it. Thus, Lebanon is added to Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. Today ( 24 – 8 – 2006 ) in Herald Tribune, senior professor in Munich university, Gulian Lindley-Franch, sends a confusing question” why do we see the best armies in the world facing difficulties in front of enemies that they defeated in the 19th Century? Israel failed in front of Hezbollah militia, And America and Britain were drowned in the Iraqi quagmire, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) faces heavy pressures in Afghanistan. France is so concerned about the repercussions of its intervention in Lebanon“; he considers as a solution for this problem- not evacuating the aggressors from the Muslim Nations- but that the Western armies change their military strategy to be in accordance the guerrilla war strategy.

It is crystal clear that this professor does not speak about a specific terrorist group but he is speaking about a war which has been launched since the 19th Century: we defeated these peoples in the 19th Century; how do we fail in defeating them nowadays? What this great professor isn’t aware of is that the tolls for victory in wars are not machines, but wills. The mechanisms of the West are undoubtedly more developed than they were during the 19th Century when they invaded nearly all the Islamic Nation. However, the kind of fighting men and their values and the social fabric in which they were brought up ” the family ” are different from the values that were concentrated on material, pleasure and consumption to the extent that The Guardian Newspaper published yesterday a frightening picture about the outbreak of the phenomenon of addiction among more than half the British young males and females and sanatoriums house about half a million addicts for treatment. Israel is no difference from this as it is a Western society; the rate of secularization is very high in these societies where there is no value for anything except pleasure and lust; therefore, we saw how elite units in the army were defeated in front of Muslim youth who narrated wonderful stories about the weakness of these elite members like children when danger besieges them.

” The Jewish professor Martin van Creveld- a professor of military studies in the faculty of history in the Hebrew University and a top specialist in the military strategy, warned earlier from the collapse that the Zionist entity and society experiences, and the collapse of the army morales and the retreat of its abilities in a way that questions realizing a possible victory in any a coming military confrontation with the Arabs. In an interview that Giora Ayalon of the newspaper ( Imtsa Khdira ) held with him and was published on 8/3/2002 AD, van Creveld delivered extremely serious speeches around the future of the army and the Zionist entity. The following is excerpts of what he said, hopefully they will wake up some of those defeatists in the Arab world:

” What is happening to us nowadays, happened with the Americans in Vietnam, and the Israeli army in Lebanon, and the Russians in Afghanistan, and this what will happen to us once again, and this what will happen to the Americans in Afghanistan .. The Israeli army is nowadays on the wrong side, in the side in which it is doomed to fail”.


” We have a force but we can’t make use of most of this force; even if we used it, its success is doubted” .

” You can notice the deterioration of situations during the last years and how a scandal that followed a scandal and a failure follows is followed by a failure; the men refuse to enlist in the military service, and the soldiers cry over graves; in my view, this weeping is one of the strangest things; if it were in my power, I would ban airing these scenes and these footages. On the other hand (the Palestinian side), you see a strong desire of revenge, and high morales; you can only compare funerals to know who have a firmer will and higher morales; they lament among us while those demand revenge”.

It is clear that the Zionist entity- like other Zionist entities- lives a phase of disintegration and deterioration. The founding generation that held the project has come to an end and was succeeded by well-to-do spoiled generations that seek nothing but living. The sex and financial scandals at the top of the Zionist hierarchy is only an illustration of the extent of the expansion and depth of the levels of secularization among Zionists. On the other hand, the Islamic nation is witnessing a religious awakening led by the moderate movement that combines both religion and mind, faith and knowledge, and between the worldly pleasures and the hereafter, raising the levels of sacrifice to unprecedented levels, and driving secularization projects to recession and senility.

When Creveld was asked a question about the Israeli army situation; what will happen to the army if it is summoned to fight a regular army like Syria or Lebanon?

Creveld answered that: I guess that it will escape; if a war like 1973 war broke out, most of the army will escape”.

“We turned from a people that was famous for its boldness and strength into a people famous for weeping and lamenting. The Other are aware of this situation. Hassan Nasrallah said that the Israelis love life so much; Arafat also said that the Jews are strong outside and weak inside. Both of them are true one hundred percent. We are the same people of the past, but circumstances changed and turned us into what we are nowdays”.

What is clear is that Islam nowadays- not terrorism- is the targeted one; Blair’s speech in a lecture in The United States was full of confirming launching a war of values, and that their values are the highest ones and that they must eventually triumph over Islamic values that he described as radical but when scrutinizing, he means only the real Islam.

This is a situation that imposes on us returning to the stage of national liberation that requires rallying all powers that want to defend the homeland, religion, the Nation and the dignity to confront- within wide national fronts- this new imperialist attack against us under the flag of the New Middle East. However, this time the substitute should be a democratic one instead of these rotten situations of weakness that we experienced, making us unable to even issue statements of condemnation and from holding the League’s honorary meetings that deteriorated to far below than this and began sending signals of encouragement to the occupation like what happened in Lebanon, and opened air and sea paths and aided it; this time, there should be a democratic substitute through rallying all national powers within fronts to confront the aggressors; the substitute should be a democratic one in which power is in the hands of people based on citizenship and pluralism and power sharing through ballot boxes without exclusion, suppression, monopoly or repression.

The problem in this strategy lies in the fact that the ruling regimes oppose it, making the conflict having two fronts: a front against occupation and the other against our representatives who rule us and who consider just a protest march against the occupation of Lebanon, Palestine or Iraq as a revolution that will overthrow their rule or something that may instigate the anger of their masters on them; they mobilize their armies on the marches instead of protecting the borders, and they unleash their dogs on proponents of liberation. Being conscious of this makes us fully aware of the fact that there is no option in front of us if we are serious in confronting this all out attack on the Nation: either to submit to the logic of these regimes which have already consumed all their legitimacy and being satisfied with the crumbs of freedom and marches in closed areas like Al-Azhar, or that we rebel, refuse and insist on exercising our rights instead of being content with demanding them, as Tunisian fighter Monsef Al Marzouqi said. If we accept that the external front with the enemy has its cost of martyrs, why do not we accept that the domestic front for liberation has its cost of martyrs like those martyred while taking to the streets because of insisting on holding peaceful marches. Why do Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis and Afghans die and others do not die while supporting them and demanding their rights through peaceful means, the most useful though they seem to be surrender, while it is not. Modern revolutions have been made by street movements, strikes of syndicates and general strikes were made by the street. Can any regime resist a general strike staged by party and union fronts; that the prophet peace be upon him raised jihad in word above other kinds of jihad; he said: ” The highest form of Jihad is to speak the truth in the face of an unjust ruler.” Which is very significant on the importance of peaceful jihad as a culture and as a media establishing for resistance and blessing public movements, marches, sit-ins and general strikes with the command of the national fronts that include representatives of all political, union, youth, feminist and cultural powers on the basis of citizenship to topple mafia regimes that dominate our nation and establish real democratic regimes that make our nation keep up with world powers which we are very far from ” you are the best nation raised up among mankind “; there is no space for this “goodness” unless these rotten regimes are toppled. This our nation’s priority nowadays: exercising a pressure on these regimes through street powers led by national fronts, to force them to be upright and straightforward, to express the will of the nation regarding independence, transparency, accountability and circulation of power through ballot boxes without any exclusion, and distributing wealth fairly and confronting the serious imperialist tide and exerting the utmost support for resistance movements in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon, and establishing international coalitions with all powers resisting this imperialist tide; if they responded to the street pressures and the will of the nation, then this is what we desire- something distant and quasi-impossible- as these regimes or at least most of them exceeded the reform stage – or they must be toppled as being the most impending priority.


10-You have criticized Mr. Sayed Qotb’s thought; are there any changes in your criticism against martyr Qotb’s thought; do you really believe that he is a main reason for the emergence of the phenomenon of violence in the Muslim communities?


Rashed el-Ghannoushi- Mr. Sayed Qotb is one of the icons of the Nation; he wrote with his blood the most wonderful contemporary Islamic epics of thought that will remain effective along generations his likes of extraordinarily great scholars: Al Ghazali, Ibn Taimiyya, Malik, Ibn Hanbal, Al Shafie, Abi Hanifa, Ibn Roshd, Mohamed Abdou, AlAfghani Reda and Al Banna and others. The merits of the great intellectuals include their becoming in the course of time icons for more schools rather than being individuals; this is because of the enrichment and multidimensionality of their thought, making them a source of kinds of controversy while interpreting their texts on different trends; followers of every trend draw the intellectual to their lines, interpreting his legacy according to their ideology and to support their doctrine. These interpretations may be miles away or close to the origin; and the founder of the school isn’t necessarily responsible for these interpretations, specially if the founder’s legacy has a refined literary nature which draws him closer to a man of letters and an artist rather than a scholar who is controlled by academic research regulations; this is the dominant condition of the discourse of the legacy of martyr Sayed Qotb may Allah have mercy on him; he is a great man of letters; literature was his entrance to Islam and to Islamic studies, making his Qur’anic contemplations closer to a refined art, philosophical contemplations and strong arguments against methods of secularization which were on the process of expansion, victory and aspirations to contain Islam; his legacy- huge parts of it are a refined political struggle literature- incites to revolution to topple tyrants and pre-Islamic beliefs. In general, the man dedicated his life to offering a general Islamic theory around Islam and its systemizing life and its concepts towards the Nation’s conditions and its surrounding International situations, suggesting a method for a change towards the required substitute. The advantage of this vision is that it is greatly luring due to its comprehensiveness, radicalism and refined literary discourse and a revolution against thee situations; this man baptized them with his blood when he was martyred for them, making me when I was a young man read his writings enthusiastically as if I were attracted by a Sufi, with nervous tension, revolutionary rashness and a readiness to fight all the world, after the world had two colors: white which is Islam- only like this with its believers, and a black which is the rest of the world and ideologies and every concept of Islam other than this concept, making it vulnerable to be described as pre Islamic beliefs, and charged of submission to methods and dictations of the contemporary pre-Islamic civilization. This makes holding a dialogue very difficult between the campaign of this concept and those violating them inside or outside Islamic circles; this is not free even of preparations settling the rows even through jihad.

It is clear that the defect of this concept lies basically in its lacking any dose of relativity, because any discrimination in Islam between the apparent clear rules- a few- and those that have more than one interpretation- so many. This made this great legacy under various interpretations: Some of them are takfiris, specially this thought was issued amid a fierce political and ideological conflict between the Islamic movement that paved ground for change and its military wing that alone made use of the rising international leftist wave, considering it a supporter for resisting imperialism, and an ideological justification for resisting the past ” brothers”, giving the opportunity to the Left powers to seize this situation and pushing an existing political and social revolution towards an other irreligious ideological and cultural dimensions. It is not amazing under such an oppressed condition that faced the Islamic movement in front of the fierceness of hostile ideologies and their seeking the support of the state’s oppressive powers, to witness such shift in the prison in a great man of letters like Sayed Qotb: he was renowned among literary critics and was a student of Al Akkad, and he was recognized as a social revolutionary men of letters who produced revolutionary Islamic writings distinguished by their defending workers and farmers and their stormy campaign against feudalism and the Capitalist Alliance; this was clearly illustrated in his articles comprised in his published book “Islamic studies” and in his book ” The Battle of Islam and Capitalism” and in his very important book ” The Social Justice”, to the extent that the revolution leaders offered him a ministerial position, as he is one of the revolution’s god fathers and theorists.

It wasn’t amazing that this rebel man of letters who is nearer to the Left, turned in the prison from a revolutionary social approach to more ideologically radicalism one and a persistent conflict between Islam and the pre Islamic beliefs on every field, considering that the doctrinal problem of the Nation is that it hasn’t understood yet ” There is no god but Allah “; thus, it must be taught again this doctrinal logic as it is a method of life; in this new context, he reinterpreted several sections of “in the shadows of the Qur’an” and he died before finishing the other sections; this approach reached its peak and last formation in his book “Limestones”; those who write about Sayed Qotb mostly restrict themselves to the writings of the second stage of his age, specially the “Limestones” stage, and forget about what he produced during the first stage- both the literary, specially ” the features of artistic photography in the Quran”, ” Afterlife scenes in the Quran ” and his revolutionary social literature like his masterpieces ” the conflict between Islam and capitalism ” and ” the social justice in Islam ” which was praised by India’s great scholar Abul Hassan Al Nadwi and considered it the best book in its topic. I think that the contemporary Islamic movement within the imperialist attack is badly in need for including the first stage of the Islamic productions of Sayed Qotb within its educational curricula ; they have a material that addresses a wide gap in the new Islamic thought structure, which is this revolutionary dimension that the martyred Imam Sayed Qotb discovered in Islam as a Quran and Sunna and produced it in a refined literary formation, with necessarily discriminating in the writings of the second stage between circumstantial which is characterized by nature of the circumstances of the conflict between the Islamic movement and its rebel affiliates, a conflict eventually inside the Islamic movement, which the leftist secular left-wing movement pressed for pushing it away from Islam and used it as a tool for repressing it and its supporters after the revolution adopted the basics of the Islamic project: the social justice, the agricultural reform to defend the grassroots who were crushed by feudalism, and eliminating the social and political powers which were orbiting around it; and also returning Egypt to Arabism as a substitute for its previous Western direction; however, although the revolution adopted the basics of the Islamic movement program even what is negative like dissolving parties and gathering change powers in one single gathering that leads the mission of change and development as fast as possible; however, in the midst of the conflict and reactions and with the effect of leftist elements that worked for filling the ideological space, this program was emptied of its Islamic background and there were directions towards the secular and even Marxist ideologies. It wasn’t amazing that at a time Sayed Qotb’s thought was published during these tense climates of conflict, that many Islamic youth were sent to prison due to quickly embracing a takfiri thought that considers as lawful killing rulers because they are considered adopting pre-Islamic beliefs, and brand societies as pre Islamic societies.

However, to what extent can the great man of letters Sayed Qotb be blamed for those who interpreted his legacy in such a way? and to what extent can circumstances be blamed for the change that led to the conflict of incompatibility that took place and the change that this great man of letters experienced and for the rashness of young men and their interpretations of his legacy focusing on one side at the expense of the other?; nowadays, after a bitter journey from a conflict between the revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood and their sons, wise men on both sides realized that the conflict was not definitely necessary and that it harmed all- Egypt in particular- and the national and Islamic movements; the only ones who benefited are the enemies of Islam; all realized that the republic and the revolution is a legitimate son to the Islamic movement and that the Islamic project was the one that founded the ideology of the revolution against feudalism and centralism of the Arab Islamic Egypt and the project of Arab unity and Arab League and the agricultural reform, spreading education and health and Arab leadership of Egypt and resisting the imperialist project represented particularly in resisting it destructive mastermind, the Zionist entity: around all this ties began- since late 1980s- to be strengthened between the national and Islamic movements, leading to establishing an institution for joint struggle ” the Islamic National Conference”, a joint struggle for the same goals with adding the democratic dimension that the project lacked and resisting the same enemies, to bypass what Sayed Qotb named in another context the grim conflict: between Arabism and Islam, the conflict that Sayed Qotb- May Allah have mercy on him- did not spare any effort in his second stage to ignite the conflict between both of them, contrary to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood of the martyred Imam- May Allah Have Mercy on him- and materialized in the Arab unity paper, one of the latest papers of the key view that they approved.


11-What are the most important incidents and schisms that hit Nahda Movement; where are Abd Al-Fattah Mourou and Al-Gourshi?


Rashed Al-Ghannoush: Mr. Abd Al-Fattah Mourou is one of the most prominent Founding Fathers of the Tunisian Islamic movement; he is generous, educator, man of letters, and an excellent speaker. He worked hard all over the country to spread awareness of the truths of Islam, stirring people and rallying them around Islam and the movement’s institutions. It was natural- under an extremist secular and police state which is repressive authoritarian, corrupt and tyrant- that he is arrested despite his well-known moderation- to remain in prison for more than three years; he was not released except after he was on the brink of death, after suffering from serious diseases: high blood pressure, disorder in heartbeats and the diabetes. Later, he experienced a life of alienation for several years; when the elderly tyrant was toppled and his successor declared a breakthrough plan that included Islamists while they were in the midst of the crisis, sheikh Abd Al-Fattah quickly declared supporting  in the name of the movement according to the declared official statements and promises; nevertheless, on first test of those promises in the first elections, they collapsed and they returned to their old habits; 99.98 % was the rate of votes allegedly garnered by the president and his party that garnered seats, while the Islamic movement- the real winner- wasn’t only deprived of its right but an eradication plan was decided and a plan for drying the springs of Islam was decided against it, summoning for this all ant-Islam and anti-Arabism movements that garnered nothing in the elections, to launch in the early 1990s, a comprehensive campaign; the movement’s leadership included tens of thousands who fled the attack through migration and there those whose health problems prevented them from migration declaring withdrawal- topped by sheikh Abd Al-Fattah- whom the brothers respected and evaluated and knew from his health condition since the first ordeal that he is no longer prepared to any more ordeals. S we know, he spared no effort in easing the ordeal on those suffering from it along with their families. He isn’t allowed to do any activity outside the circle of his career- a successful lawyer, and he is even continuously under close security surveillance; he is banned from traveling even to the perform pilgrimage in the Holy House of Allah. There is no talk in Tunisia about Da’wa activities of any kind, even Qur’anic lessons are banned. Mosques are closed just after performing the prayers and preaching in them without a licence from the Prime Minister is an actionable crime which may lead to imprisonment. The official media is low and the official policy is dead. Culture is nearly identified with prostitution; however, outside law controls, a wide Islamic awakening and active political and union are acting attracting a multi talented man like sheikh Morou with his distinguished position.


As for the colleague journalist and intellectual, Salah Al Gourshi, he withdrew from the movement in early 1970s, with number of respected brothers due to ideological disagreements related to the extent of commitment to Sharia; they were known at that time as the Islamic Left which is originally attributed to Egyptian intellectual, Hassan Hanafi, and they were later known as Progressive Islamists, including Dr. Hamida Al Nifr; they are nowadays activists in the civil society institutions, doing their best in developing the Islamic thought according to their method. Mr. Salah has activities in defending human rights, including prisoners’ rights, in his leading position in the Tunisian association of human rights and as renowned journalist. We ask Allah to guide us and guide them; the arena for serving Islam can contain every one with good intentions and straight methods.


12-More than 25 years ago, the Nahda Movement was founded; what is your evaluation of the Nahda Movement and its performance in 25 years?  the Nahda Movement: evaluation & achievements?


Rashed Al-Ghannoushi: the Nahda Movement is one of a few political movements – as we know – that reformed its path more than once to spot what is right and what is wrong. It released its latest evaluation after its conference in 1995 in which it spotted on itself and on others- authorities and opposition- mistakes that contributed to what the country faced including a serious crisis and a suffocating blockage. The mistakes that the movement spotted in itself included: a weakness in estimating the repercussions of the International situations on local situations specially concerning the Gulf War in 1991, and a carelessness in consultation and cooperation with the opposition, and not controlling the rashness toward the election arena in 1989, causing an unbearable disorder in the body of the existing balances. This was the same mistake committed by the Islamic Front later on. The Islamic movements that ran for elections benefited from that lesson, for example in Morocco and in Egypt, and they decreased their participation.

As for the achievements of the Islamic movement ” Nahad”, they may seem to be none and over specially- which isn’t true- specially after the ordeal that began in 1981 till nowadays – except for a few breakthroughs in 1984 then in 1988, but the suppression machine was resumed with full efficiency since 1991 until this day against people-!.No. The ordeal- whatever its aggravation is- but it does not destroy or eradicate original calls; it consolidates it and boosts its legitimacy if it resisted and persevered its principles and kept its unity; the movement succeeded in all this, thanks God; the blow that does not kill you, strengthens you. We are sure that the deep effect left by the movement in its environment is so deep that it can’t be eradicated by any blind tyranny that terrifies people to the extent that they leave any symbol or sign that may link them to you, and they hide even while committing the prayers, fasting reading Quran or wearing the veil and they may pretend that they attack them to survive, but this does not prevent them from a passive resistance against tyranny, waiting for calamities that mat destroy it; When they feel that the tyrant is waning, they begin to move, attacking in whispers, and then in public and they then rebel; this is what has started to happen nowadays through the emergence of a violent wave of religiousness that amazed the enemies of Islam who put and carried out the plan of drying the springs and eradication. No wise man who knows how much these people are faithful to those who defended religion and served them and were harmed for this; no wise man can imagine that such a movement that served its people for more than two decades to the extent that every district in a village or city and no school, faculty, administration or factory remained without supporters and preachers, specially in schools and universities where the majority is young men- students and pupils- supported their movement; 1998 elections materialized this wide loyalty, making the ruling party face for the first time since its establishment a real popular power while many other movements were marginalized; a movement like this faced detentions among its leaders and members up to more than thirty thousands in a comprehensive and destructive attack on them and on their families and relatives; the country’s history did not witness like this before; every family was repressed  because of an affiliation, to the movement or a sympathy or kinship or friendship, especially that the movement members are well-known in their districts, villages and among their families and their colleagues as models of success and good manners. Can a wise man imagine that a police regime that possess only the stick from the legitimacy account, can obliterate the beautiful memories about them from people’s hearts and turn that picture upside-down in the eyes of their families, neighbourhood and friends, so that they believe that these faithful men who served them and they experienced and learnt religion from, are terrorists; is it just because the authority which is famous for deception and lying and continuous repression against every opposing power and free voice, accused them of this? No. Peoples are faithful to those who served them and sacrificed for their sake. The newly grown plant may lean because of the stormy wind but it is not broken and it quickly restores its nature the moment the storm ends. This is what has actually started through a violent awakening that penetrates all classes. Its faces include takfir and faithfulness.

In parallel to this religious awakening, there is a political and social awakening mentioned before, and many things are to come.

What is worth noting is reminding with the special cultural environment tin whose context the improvement surfaced; it was an environment that westernization controlled to the extent of tempting the tyrant that end of Islam is close, making him dare to commit what no ruler dared to do in the Islamic history whatever the extent of his tyranny; he even offended its beliefs and rituals in a way that happened only in the republics of former Soviet Union; it was an environment in which there was a boycott between the new generation and Islam; the country’s interest was turned from the East into the West; the Islamic movement emerged, like Mousa (Moses) who was brought up in Pharaoh’s Palace. However, this was the surface, but the popular depth remained tied to the East. The blatant offences of the tyrant against Islamic sanctuaries like his drinking alcohol in Ramadan daytime (while people were fasting) and calling on people to imitate him, and his mocking at paradise, hell and prophets’ miracles, were a stunning shock to people waking them from the state of coma into which the leader had been pushing them during the struggle against occupation; the birth of the Islamic movement was expressing a restored awareness and a response to the call for sticking to identity; it wasn’t amazing that a few group of young men began working- during the 1970s- to call for performing the basics and rituals of religion and in less than a decade life was restored to mosques after abandoning them for a long period of time and the Islamic Da’wa extended to schools, faculties and culture clubs and all modernist institutions that were founded on the bases of secularization and boycotting Islam and its civilization with doctrines the secularization wandering in them; small mosques were established; lessons, the Islamic book, the veil, the Islamic art like the religious songs spread. Also, the movement became active in the unions field and supported the union institution in its conflict against the greedy Capitalism.

In the political field, two months after the authorities declared allowing political multiplicity, it declared establishing “the Islamic Trend Movement ” which turned- to be in accordance with the parties law- to the Nahda Movement. It declared, in its constitutive statement, a political program that fully adopts the democratic method. Including a pluralism that does not exclude any trend and it renounced violence, as a way for solving ideological and political disputes; and it approved citizenship as a basis for equally distributing rights including the participation of women and secular powers. This shocked at that time many Islamists. Such a declaration didn’t remains as an election slogan only but the movement worked for diving it an ideological basis and to discover an original democratic culture in the land and legacy of Islam; we think that ” the Nahda” was a forerunner in doing this and that its contribution to linking it to Islamic origins is considerable; its effect exceeded the narrow Tunisian framework to reach the general Islamic arena. However, what the Nahda did in 6-6-1981 and took the initiative in it and was denounced in most Islamic circles is nowadays a main part of the culture of the main course of the Islamic movement. Believing in it is on the rise, due to the horizons and opportunities that it opens, and the outlets of evil and sedition that it closes.   

Therefore, despite the tedious efforts that the authorities exerted to entice movement to violence as a reaction on its tyranny, the movement managed- thanks to God- to control its young men and nothing but a very few and limited incidents were attributed to some of its members, after arresting leaders and instigating beastly police elements against its youth. Although the leadership denounced it, but it was taken as a basis for legitimating the plan of eradicating the main rival of an overused ruling party, under pretext of fighting terrorism and extremism and defending gains of modernism. With dealing a blow to the main rival, it destroyed politics as a whole- for a while.