Home inContext Tunisia’s Islamists Showing Their True Colors?

Tunisia’s Islamists Showing Their True Colors?

Samara Greenberg

According to a report in Tunisia Live — the first Tunisian English news website launched after the country’s uprising — Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda invited a Hamas member to speak at a rally last Sunday. Ennahda, banned under former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s 23-year regime, won big in the country’s first elections after Ben Ali’s ouster when it gained 89 out of 217 seats in the new constituent assembly — three times more than any other group.

Ennahda is often referred to as a “moderate” Islamist party. But on Sunday, Houda Naïm, a member of the Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council based in Gaza, told Tunisians that she hoped the “liberation” of their country would bring the liberation of Palestine. Ennahda’s general secretary, Hamadi Jebali, proposed by the party to be the future prime minister, reportedly took Naïm’s words one step further, stating: “The liberation of Tunisia will, God willing, bring about the liberation of Jerusalem.” Jebali also announced that the occasion was “a divine moment in a new state, and in, hopefully, a 6th caliphate.”

Tunisians demonstrate against the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunis.

This is in sharp contrast to previous statements made by Jebali. Prior to the October elections, in an interview with France’s Le Monde newspaper, Jebali stressed that Ennahda does not support a theocratic Tunisia, stating “if we win the elections, Tunisia will not become an Islamic country, it will be a democratic country.” Previously, Ennahda leader Rached Ghannouchi promised to leave religion out of the new Tunisian constitution, saying, “There shouldn’t be any law to try to make people more religious.”

Only time will tell what will happen next in Tunisia. One can only hope the Obama administration is keeping an eye on these developments, considering its new policy of dealing with the Arab World’s Islamist parties based “on what they do” rather than on what they are called.