TUNISIA: ‘Moderate” Muslim leader planning slow takeover of country by radical extremists

There’s an uproar in Tunisia over a video that shows a leading politician advising young Salafist leaders on how they can take control of the state, gradually. The politician, Rashid al-Ghannushi, heads the country’s largest party, Ennahda, and is considered to be a voice of Islamic moderation. (‘Islamic moderation’ is an oxymoron)

INN  The video was first broadcast last April and re-broadcast October 9th. In it, Ghannushi told the Salafists: “The secularists are still in control of the media, economy and administration. Therefore, controlling them would require more time.”

He added that “the police and army’s support for Islamists is not guaranteed, and controlling them would also require more time.” “I tell our young Salafists to be patient… Why hurry? Take your time to consolidate what you have gained,” Ghannushi said. He advised the Salafists to “create television channels, radio stations, schools and universities” to push their agenda.

He went on to mock secularists who accept Islam yet fear Sharia law. “They are like those who accepted content but rejected the name itself,” he said. “The government is now at the hands of Islamists,” he said. “The mosques are ours now, and we’ve become the most important entity in the country.

“The Islamists must fill the country with associations, establish Quranic schools everywhere, and invite religious preachers because people are still ignorant of Islam,” Ghannushi continued.

In his first reaction to the leaking of video, Ghannushi said that his words were taken out of context. “My words were misunderstood,” Ghannushi said. “I was only debating with a number of Salafist young men so that they may not deal lightly with the police, army and state, and nothing else.”

Tunisia used to be the most liberal Muslim country in the world where a red light district was legal and women in bikinis on the beach were the norm.

BBC  Party leader Rachid Ghannouchi pledged not to set up an Islamist state and to respect multi-party democracy. Ennahda, which was banned under the former regime, said it modelled itself on the governing AKP party in Turkey, another Muslim-majority country which has remained a secular state.

In spite of the promises made to the mainly secular Tunisians, fewer women go to the beach wearing bikinis now than during the previous regime, because they are increasingly being harassed by salafists.


Rashid al-Ghannushi sought to reassure secularists and investors, nervous about the prospect of Islamists holding power in one of the Arab world’s most liberal countries, by saying it would not stop tourists wearing bikinis on the beaches nor impose Islamic banking.


Foreign tourism is a major source of revenue for Tunisia. “The tourism sector is among the achievements which we cannot touch. Is it logical to handicap a strategic sector like tourism by forbidding wine or wearing bathing costumes?” Mr Jebali said. “These are individual liberties granted for foreigners and Tunisians alike.” (Not anymore!)


Ansamed ”Ben Ali was a tyrant, he fleeced the country,” 22-year-old Halim told ANSAMed. ”But at least back then we could be ourselves, like European people our age.” Women who go to the beach wearing bikinis are being increasing insulted, beaten or otherwise harassed, reportedly by Islamic fundamentalist men. Police and soldiers are patrolling the public beaches in an effort to protect the women. More and more women are going to the public beach, and even bathing, covered from head to toe, while women who reject totally covering their bodies are increasingly going to private clubs or tourist holiday resorts, where the majority of the clientele is foreign.