Controversial Muslim figure Wajdi Ghoneim, a scholar from Egypt, has been invited to go on a tour in Tunisia, giving lectures in several cities. His tour began on February 11th, 2012 and is due to conclude on the 14th.
Ghoneim is known for making controversial remarks during his sermons. For instance, he is known to advocate for female genital mutilation (FGM), a trend that is more widespread in subsaharan African countries, and has made several misogynistic remarks in his sermons.
On his trip to Tunisia, Ghoneim has strongly advocated for the merging of Salafi strains in Tunisia with Ennahda – an Islamist political party – so that the two can “unite Muslims and spread Islam.”
Contrary to some recently circulating reports which claimed that Ennahda had invited him, Ghoneim was invited by a group of Tunisian Islamic charity organizations. “Ennahda has no relationship whatsoever with Wajdi Ghoneim. We did not invite him to Tunisia,” said Noureddine Harbaoui, Ennahda’s official spokesperson.
An agreement was made within the group of organizations to invite Ghoneim. The organizations include the Tunisia-based organization Dar el-Hadith Academy, al-Forqan Association for Teaching the Qur’an, and the Basha’ir el-Kheir Organization. Most of these organizations were established after the country’s regime change.
An administrator with Dar el-Hadith who wished to remain anonymous said that the aim of inviting Wajdi Ghoneim is to demystify apparent divisions between different strains of Islam. “We are all Muslims after all – this talk of Salafi versus Islamists has no standing. We are one united Muslim ummah [worldwide community of Muslims].”
Ennahda, however, did not seem eager to follow this call to merge modern Islamist and Salafi trends, with Harbaoui stating, “It is way too early to speak of collaborative work between us and the Tunisian Salafis – it may never happen.”
Harbaoui also expressed very strong disapproval with Ghoneim’s position regarding female genital mutilation. “This is an ignorant tradition that has no links to Islam. The tradition belongs to cultures that are composed of Muslims and non-Muslims alike – it has no connection to the Islamic tradition,” he asserted.
One Salafi who has attended some of the lectures given by Ghoneim in Tunisia has claimed that the organizations sponsoring his tour receive funding from individual private donors and ‘zakat money’ [Islamic charity]. The administrator from Dar el-Hadith confirmed this information.
Zitouna Radio and a member of al-Forqan Association for Teaching the Qur’an have announced that Wajdi Ghoneim will be extending his visit.