Rached Ghannouchi

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Rached Ghannouchi
راشد الغنوشي
Born (1941-06-22) 22 June 1941 (age 78)
Alma mater Cairo University
Damascus University
Political party Ennahda Movement
  • Sheikh Muhammad (father)
Website www.rachedelghannouchi.com

Rached Ghannouchi (Arabic : راشد الغنوشيRāshid al-Ghannūshī; born 22 June 1941), also spelled Rachid al-Ghannouchi or Rached el-Ghannouchi, is a Tunisian politician and thinker, [1] co-founder of the Ennahdha Party and serving as its "intellectual leader". [2] He was born Rashad Khriji (راشد الخريجي). [3]

Tunisia Country in Northern Africa

Tunisia, officially the Republic of Tunisia, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa, covering 163,610 square kilometres. Its northernmost point, Cape Angela, is the northernmost point on the African continent. It is bordered by Algeria to the west and southwest, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Tunisia's population was 11.435 million in 2017. Tunisia's name is derived from its capital city, Tunis, which is located on its northeast coast.


Ghannouchi was named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 [4] and Foreign Policy's Top 100 Global Thinkers [5] and was awarded the Chatham House Prize in 2012 (alongside Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki) by Prince Andrew, Duke of York, for "the successful compromises each achieved during Tunisia's democratic transition". [6] [7] In 2016 he received the Jamnalal Bajaj Award for "promoting Gandhian values outside India". [8]

Time is an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City. It was founded in 1923 and originally run by Henry Luce. A European edition is published in London and also covers the Middle East, Africa, and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong. The South Pacific edition, which covers Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, is based in Sydney. In December 2008, Time discontinued publishing a Canadian advertiser edition.

Time 100 is an annual listicle of the 100 most influential people in the world assembled by the American news magazine Time. First published in 1999 as the result of a debate among American academics, politicians, and journalists, the list is now a highly publicized annual event. Although appearing on the list is often seen as an honor, Time makes it clear that entrants are recognized for changing the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions. The final list of influential individuals is exclusively chosen by Time editors with nominations coming from the TIME 100 alumni and the magazine's international writing staff. Only the winner of the Reader's Poll, conducted days before the official list is revealed, is chosen by the general public. The corresponding commemorative gala is held annually in Manhattan.

FP Top 100 Global Thinkers Wikimedia list article

Foreign Policy magazine recognizes the world's pre-eminent thought leaders and public intellectuals in an annual issue, "100 Leading Global Thinkers".

Early life

Ghannouchi was born outside El Hamma, in the governorate of Gabès in southern Tunisia. His village had no electricity or paved roads. His father was a poor farmer with children including Rached. His family worked in the fields every day, and had meat to eat only a few times a year. [9] After the ground season had ended, the family wove baskets from palm leaves to supplement its income. Rached was able to attend a local branch of the traditional Arabic-language Zaytouna school thanks to financial help from an older brother. [9]

El Hamma Place in Gabès Governorate, Tunisia

El Hamma is an oasis town located in the Gabès Governorate, 30 kilometers west of Gabès, Tunisia and near the eastern end of Chott el Fejej. Its population in 2014 was 73,512.

Gabès Governorate Governorate in Tunisia

Gabès Governorate is one of the 24 governorates of Tunisia and in south-eastern Tunisia. It covers an area of 7166 km² and had a population of 374,300 as at the 2014 census. The capital is Gabès.

He received his certificate of attainment degree, equivalent to the Baccalauréat, in 1962 from the University of Ez-Zitouna (Zaytouna). He entered the school of agriculture at Cairo University in 1964 but, following the expulsion of Tunisians from Egypt, he left for Syria. He studied philosophy at the University of Damascus, graduating in 1968. Ghannouchi also spent some time in his 20s traveling and working in Europe as a grape picker and dish washer. [10]

Baccalauréat French diploma

The baccalauréat, often known in France colloquially as bac, is an academic qualification that French students are required to take to graduate high school. Introduced by Napoleon I in 1808, it is the main diploma that is required to pursue university studies.

University of Ez-Zitouna university

Ez-Zitouna University is in Montfleury, Tunis. It was first established in 737 and subsequently modernised in 1956. It consists of the Higher Institute of Theology and the Higher Institute of Islamic Civilisation in Tunis and a research institution, the Center of Islamic Studies, in Kairouan.

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Islamic Tendency Movement

In April 1981 Ghannouchi founded the Islamic Tendency Movement (Arabic : حركة الاتجاه الإسلاميḤarakat al-Ittijāh al-Islāmī). The Movement described itself as specifically rooted in non-violent Islamism, and called for a "reconstruction of economic life on a more equitable basis, the end of single-party politics and the acceptance of political pluralism and democracy." [11] By the end of July, Ghannouchi and his followers were arrested, sentenced to eleven years in prison in Bizerte, and were tortured. Both the religious and secular community, including numerous secular political organizations, rallied in his support. [12] While in prison he translated a number of works and wrote on topics such as democracy, women's rights, and Palestine. He also wrote his most noted work, Al‐Hurriyat al‐'Ammah (Public Liberties). [13]

Nonviolence philosophy, personal or collective attitude, refusing to legitimate violence and promoting the respect of others in conflicts

Nonviolence is the personal practice of being harmless to self and others under every condition. It comes from the belief that hurting people, animals or the environment is unnecessary to achieve an outcome and refers to a general philosophy of abstention from violence. This may be based on moral, religious or spiritual principles, or it may be for purely strategic or pragmatic reasons.

Islamism set of ideologies holding that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life

Islamism is a concept whose meaning has been debated in both public and academic contexts. The term can refer to diverse forms of social and political activism advocating that public and political life should be guided by Islamic principles or more specifically to movements which call for full implementation of sharia. It is commonly used interchangeably with the terms political Islam or Islamic fundamentalism. In academic usage, the term Islamism does not specify what vision of "Islamic order" or sharia are being advocated, or how their advocates intend to bring them about. In Western mass media it tends to refer to groups whose aim is to establish a sharia-based Islamic state, often with implication of violent tactics and human rights violations, and has acquired connotations of political extremism. In the Muslim world, the term has positive connotations among its proponents.

Bizerte City in Bizerte Governorate, Tunisia

Bizerte or Bizerta, the classical Hippo, is a town of Bizerte Governorate in Tunisia. It is the northernmost city in Africa, located 65 km (40mil) north of the capital Tunis. It is one of the oldest known settlements in Tunisia, having been founded by settlers from the Phoenician port of Sidon around 1100 BC. It is also known as the last town to remain under French control after the rest of the country won its independence from France. The city had 142,966 inhabitants in 2014.

He was released in 1984, but returned to prison in 1987 with a life sentence, then was again released in 1988. He moved to the United Kingdom as a political exile, where he lived for 22 years. [14] [2]

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

He attended The Islamic Committee for Palestine conference in Chicago in 1989. [15] Following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Al-Ghannushi denounced King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for the "colossal crime" of inviting the U.S. to deploy forces. [16] He also called for a Muslim boycott of American goods, planes and ships. [16] He has also been criticized for calling for jihad against Israel. [17] [18] [19]

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi speaking in an Islamist rally circa 1980. RachedGhannouchi.jpg
Rachid Al-Ghannouchi speaking in an Islamist rally circa 1980.

Ghannouchi continued to criticise Tunisian politics and the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. [20]

Tunisian Revolution and after

Following popular unrest in which Ben Ali was ousted, Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia on 30 January 2011, after spending twenty two years exiled in London, [21] with thousands [22] of people welcoming him.

His party won 37.04% of the vote (more than the next four biggest vote-getting parties combined) [23] in the 2011 Tunisian Constituent Assembly election. Ghannouchi did not take a government position. Ennahdha's secretary-general Hamadi Jebali became Prime Minister. [24]

Ennahda formed a government which led Tunisia through the challenging and tumultuous aftermath of the Jasmine revolution. The government during this period was characterized by greater transparency, lack of corruption, and consensus-building. In March 2012, Ennahda declared it would not support making sharia the main source of legislation in the new constitution, maintaining the secular nature of the state. Ennahda's stance on the issue was criticized by hardline Islamists, who wanted strict sharia, but was welcomed by secular parties. [25] The government was criticized for mediocre economic performance, not stimulating the tourism industry, and poor relations with Tunisia's biggest trading partner France. In particular it was criticized for tolerating efforts at aggressive Islamisation by radical Islamists who were demanding Sharia law and denouncing gender inequality and restrictions on polygamy, [26] some of whom were responsible for the September 2012 ransacking and burning of the American embassy and school following the online publication of the trailer for a controversial anti-Islamic film, and the assassination of two leftist politicians Chokri Belaid (in February 2013) and Mohamed Brahmi (in July 2013). During this 2013–14 Tunisian political crisis enraged secularists demanded the government step down or even a Sisi-style coup, while Ennahda militants defiantly opposed early elections, even booing Ghannouchi's calls for sacrifice for national unity. [27]

Nonetheless Ghanouchi worked with secularist leader Beji Caid Essebsi to forge a compromise and on October 5 signed a "road map" whereby Ennahda would step down for a caretaker government after the new constitution was agreed upon and until new elections were held. [28] Both leaders were heavily criticized by their party rank and file and Ghannouchi received agreement from the Ennahda shura council only by threatening to resign. [29]

In January 2014, after the new Tunisian Constitution was approved, Ennahdha peacefully quit government and handed power to a technocratic government led by Mehdi Jomaa. Ennahda placed second in the October 2014 parliamentary election with 27.79% of the popular vote and formed a coalition government with the larger secularist party Nidaa Tounes despite rank-and-file opposition. [30] Ennahda did not put forth a presidential candidate for the November 2014 election. [31] Ghanouchi "hinted broadly" that he personally supported Beji Caid Essebsi [32] (who won with over 55% of the vote).

Ghannouchi argued for these accommodating measures against more purist party members on the grounds that the country was still too fragile, and the economy too much in need of reform, for Ennahda to be in opposition. [30] Ghannouchi also gave his support to a crackdown on jihadi indoctrination at radical mosques (over 60 civilians, mostly tourists, were killed in 2015 by jihadis, devastating Tunisia's tourist industry). Despite his Islamist background, he had always been "reviled" by jihadis, according to Robert Worth, and now appeared near "the top" of the jihadi "wanted list". [33]

BBC apology in 2013

On 17 May 2013, the BBC published an apology on their website for previously publishing inaccurate statements about Ghannouchi six months earlier on 21 November 2012. [34] The article had accused Ghannouchi of threatening to order troops on to the streets if the Ennahdha Party did not get the results he expected in the elections in 2011, and suggested he condoned the violent Salafist attack on the United States embassy and the burning of the American School in Tunis in September 2012. [34] Acknowledging that none of these accusations and suggestions were in fact true, the retraction concluded: "The BBC apologises to Mr Ghannouchi for these mistakes and for the distress they caused him." [34]

The Independent apology in 2012

On 9 October 2012, The Independent published an apology on their website for suggesting, in a previous article, that the party Ghannouchi leads, Ennahdha (An Nahda) has been offered foreign funds. The apology stated: "we wish to make it clear that Mr Ghannouchi and his party have not accepted any donation from a foreign state in breach of Tunisian party funding laws. We apologise to Mr Ghannouchi." [35]

The Economist apology in 2011

On 22 October 2011, The Economist published an apology on their website for previously publishing an article in which they attributed false statements to Ghannouchi. The article [36] claimed that Ghannouchi "opposes the country's liberal code of individual rights, the Code of Personal Status, and its prohibition of polygamy". The article, also, claimed that Ghannouchi "has threatened to hang a prominent Tunisian feminist, Raja bin Salama, in Basij Square in Tunis, because she has called for the country's new laws to be based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights". The apology [37] stated that "we accept that neither of these statements is true: Mr Ghannouchi has expressly said that he accepts the Code of Personal Status; and he never threatened to hang Ms bin Salama. We apologise to him unreservedly."

Views and background

Ghannouchi's willingness to compromise with secularists in Tunisia and his country's unique success in maintaining a democratic system following the Arab Spring has been credited by at least one observer (Robert Worth) to his background. Unlike many Islamists, Ghannouchi "lived abroad for decades, reading widely in three languages", including Western thinkers Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Jean-Paul Sartre. He admired the courage of leftists who protested in the streets against the dictatorship, were arrested and tortured in prison, and became willing to work with them. [10] Watching the initial victory of the Algerian Islamists—while exiled in London—collapse into the slaughter, mayhem and defeat of the civil war, left a deep impact. [38] According to Azzam S. Tamimi, he was influenced by Malik Bennabi and his treatise "Islam and Democracy", which laid "the foundations" for Ghannouchi's "masterpiece" Al‐Hurriyat al‐'Ammah (Public Liberties). [13]

In 2002, an unsympathetic Western source (Martin Kramer) described him as differing "from other Islamists" in his insistence "that Islam accepts multi-party democracy." [1]

In 2015, he told French journalist Olivier Ravanello that homosexuality should not be criminalized, though he opposed gay marriage. [39] He has been interviewed by Michael Moore in Where to Invade Next and stated that homosexuality is a "private affair."


Chatham House prize in 2012, Ghannushi and Marzouki. Chattam.jpg
Chatham House prize in 2012, Ghannushi and Marzouki.

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Further reading