03 March 2012 5:23 pm | | 18


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Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahdha leader, presents his perception about secularism

Rached Ghannouchi, founder of the Islamist Ennahda party, stated in a debate held yesterday that religion is a personal conviction, not to be imposed by the state.  ”Freedom is the foundation of Islam,” he declared.

Ghannouchi spoke yesterday at a discussion, hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), on the topic of “Secularism and the Relationship between Religion and State from Ennahdha’s Prespective.” Ghannouchi presented his point of view regarding secularism and religion to an audience consisting of politicians, intellectuals and the Head of the National Constituent Assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaafer.

According to Ghannouchi, secularism appeared in the West as a “procedural solution” to solve problems when Protestant dissidents split away from the Catholic Church. “At first glance, it seems that secularism is a philosophy that came to fight religious views. However, this is not the case,” he stated.

The Ennahdha leader added that separating religion from the state is “an adventure” that could harm both religion and state if not done properly. ”The emancipation of the state from religion can be a way of transforming the state into a mafia, looting the economy and leading widespread political deceit if not done correctly… people are deeply in need for religion, to differentiate between what is forbidden (haram) and what is allowed (hallel) in their everyday lives,” he continued.

Governments that either force their people to adhere to religious practices or restrict the religious freedom of citizens are dangerous and unnatural, according to Ghannouchi.

He gave an anecdote of his visit to an Islamic country that forces women to wear the veil. “When I got on the plane to leave, all of the women were covering their hair, but once in the air, most of the women removed their headscarves. This shows religion is a personal conviction that can not be forced or imposed on others.”

Moderate Islam and “partial secularism” both guarantee the same principles in Ghannouchi’s view. “Freedom is a fundamental principle in Islam, religion can not be forced on believers,” he added. ”Religion is not meant to give us guidance in all areas of industrial management, agricultural innovation, and governance, those subjects require human reason. Religion, however, gives us a code of values ​​and principles,” he explained.

Ghannouchi also argued that democracy is the best illustration of the value of shura, or consultation, in Islam.

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Comments (18)

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  1. chris says:

    What is done in the dark will come to light if this government is wanting to be moderate why do they now have religious police. The average Tunisian does not have any idea what is happening. As a country they are not used to being part of the political process. They are prestending to be ‘moderate’ to gain foriegn funds. The truth will out and they will be shown for what they really are. I just hope the Tunisian people are ready to take to the streets again and I hope the West keep the money and not give to a administration that does not have the good of the people to the fore

    • Afif says:

      @Chris:
      We, Tunisians, are not born yesterday. We are watching and we will meet them at the ballot box. But it seems to me that no matter how suspicious we get, which is very healthy, it is our duty as citizens to give the goverment the people have elected a chance. Otherwise, democracy is not for us. If the U.S. and other foreign powers are willing to give them a chance to come through, then we should too. Sabotaging the goverment leads to the sabotaging of the process itself and it does not help the country. I tried to make point in another comment below, that this sabotaging is what may turn modearates like me (as I regard myself) the other way around. We can criticize the goverment, but spreading lies does notthing but insult our intelligence, and those who do it, will only harm the process.
      Again, we need to focus on the economy and providing a stable society so that others will trust that we are worth to invest in as country.
      Finally, bear in mind, if the opposition does it now, it will be done to them later. As such, there will be no end in site for our ultimate salvation.
      I love this beautiful country and I am really worried about it.
      That is all folks!

      • chris says:

        Many people have chosen Tunisia as a place to go for holidays. There are many people willing to support your country. However the messages are mixed now. Religion and the economy should not be mixed. The leaders should not be wasting time trying to confuse the people this is blowing smoke. They should be concentrating on jobs, food, systems that create growth and movement. Instead they are talking about religion which does nto feed or create jobs or build an economy.

        There is not one person in the new government who knows how to run a country so they are not understanding what they are doing. It is a contest between those who have the biggest mouths arguing while nothing practical gets done. If the Salifast people want recognistion why dont they show what they have to offer instead of violence and noise.

        The world is watching. Investors will not come and the tourists will spend the money else where this is a truth. A sad one perhaps but it will be seen. Ben Ali was not good for the country in the end but that was mostly due to the influence of his wife and her greedy family. before that many changes took place in that country.

        There will be another uprising and this one will not be as pleasant as the last. however the Tunnisian people need a country that they can grow in and a country that does the best for its people and this government is not it.

      • Martin says:

        Dear Afif,
        thank you for being passionate about Tunisia. Democracy demands participation.
        A general comment on democracy:
        1) The party in power (i.e. the one holding the majority of voices within the parliament) is not a single player that can do whatever it wants to do. Their are not elected despots!

        2) The opposition (the one holding the minority of voices) has another task. It’s task is to control and dispute with the party in power.
        To be in oppositon does not mean to be powerless.
        I even dare say that the oppositions task is very hard. They have to keep their eyes open wide, watch every step. On the other hand they might as well agree with the party in power on certain subjects.

        Sabotaging one another means sabotaging the common goal: A fair and just governance that leads to the blossoming of all citizens.

        Democracy is not comparable to a soccer match where there is a winner and a loser, where it is one against the other, no matter what.
        Democracy takes place every day. It’s not one against the other. It’s about finding solutions that are acceptable for all. Sometimes compromises are needed. All voices need to be heard. Not all can be followed.
        Parties that have similar goals often join and form a coalition…

  2. T says:

    I think he made some interesting points, though I personally don’t agree with everything. But those who oppose him will never like anything he says, no matter what, so no surprise there.

    It’s interesting also to note how people who obviously hate islam and muslims, pretend to know islam, when obviously they have no idea what they are talking about. It’s amusing, actually..

  3. Afif says:

    @Skander and Kusaila:
    Your comments have convinced me. The song and dance that Skander has done reminded me of Coptic Egyptians’s same song and dance they do after they leave Egypt. Now I will for sure vote for Ennahda next time! Thank you!

    • Skander says:

      Such a weak Muslim mind. Instead of answering our concerns with facts and proof, you go back to insults and stupidity. You will vote for Ennahda because that is what morons do. Maybe Allah will give you an extra virgin for it. So I guess discovering that your prophet was a rapist made you an even stronger Muslim. So you are the 10% who know Islam is a lie, you just like being a thug, or racist, or sexist.

  4. Kusaila says:

    I find the title of the article to be misleading as it conveys only a carefully selected statement made by the speaker. While Mr Ghannouchi indeed stated that religion should not be imposed, he quickly contradicted himself during the Q&A session when asked by Mr Georgi regarding the requirement for a Tunisian president to be Muslim. He also added that Turkey (the model he so much promoted during his campaign) is suffering because of its secular constitution. Mr Ghannouchi eloquantly demonstrated the gap between what the so called “moderate Islam” calls for in theory and what is being practiced in the field.

    “Moderate Islam and partial secularism both guarantee the same principles in Ghannouchi’s view.” While partial secularism is a reality the West has been practicing for ages, moderate Islam is nothing but a myth. A classical techniques charlatans play by comparing perfect theory against observable reality.

    • skander says:

      Very well said. I’m also sick of each time of talking with Tunisians they call Turkey an Islamic state, which it is very much not. The fact they are trying to join the EU and have a strong separation of religion and state in the constitution should be more than enough to show it is a secular country. The fact that Ghanouchi says he wants to “model” their form of Islam is proof that he is nothing but a con-artist seeking power by saying and doing anything that will give him an edge.

  5. Afif says:

    @Skander,
    I have no doubt that you are outraged by the fact that Guannouchi said the appropriate thing. The opposition is too. Like you, they just can’t wait for the Islamists to say something stupid, but I the period of exile Guannouchi had abroad, probably made him reconcile or attempt to reconcile his views with basic human rights. The islamist movement is here to say, and I am personally not against that. I just want all views to be respected.
    As fo you Skander, I am certaily glad that you do not live in Tunisia, because we will make you pay in addition to the taxes you mentioned, the “bad mouth tax.”

    • skander says:

      I see that you have been insulted by my “bad mouth” however it is not a bad mouth to say the truth, no matter how much you wish it was not true. You are probably the 90% of Muslims who do not know the truth about Mohamed, or you may be the 10% who knew Mohamed was a thug, but they are thugs too so they do not mind. What part of my statement do you disagree with? That Mohamed made his people fight Jihad. We both know that is true. If you don’t know that is true, then you are the most ignorant Muslim on Earth. That he raped woman after victory. Read Quran 33.50 that gives Mohamed the right to have sex with his sex slaves. Back in those days you become a slave once you are conquered by an enemy tribe. Read this excellent article here http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Muhammad/myths-mu-rape.htm
      That shows Hadiths of Mohamed’s actions. I know that Muslims like to pretend that Hadiths that are bad are “unauthentic”, but the truth is the basic rituals of Islam are in hadiths not Quran, so if God’s plan was to send you books some authentic and some not, either God is an idiot who could not send an authentic book free of errors so people could worship him correctly, or the most likely scenerio, it is man made. Islam my friend is destruction of society and in a country like Tunisia, it’s complete economy. One must fight it due to it being a great evil that destroys. Look at Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, even Saudi Arabia is a country where 10% live really well 90% live miserably and horrific social lives. Nevermind all the women victims of Islam. Islam is a great scourge on this Earth and a good God not just a perfect God would have never created such a horrible thing.

      • Nora says:

        All I can say is if what you say is actually true, which its not, then Islam would not be the largest growing religion in the WORLD. So there is obviously something right. Or would you like to call all of us idiots? – Good luck with that buddy.

    • skander says:

      Guannouchi is a hypocrite. I am not outraged that he said “the appropriate thing” Because I prefer Salafists who are monsters (They are monsters for following the Quran by the letter, you ever wonder why there are so few Buddhist fundamentalists who act like that?) who tell the truth and say what they believe than a double talking snake like Guannouchi who would say anything to be in power. If Tunisia becomes atheist, Ghannouchi would also become an atheist. He just cares about power and that is almost more dangerous that Salafists. Unfortunately we are having the worst case scenario which Ghannouchi is going to use the salafists to do his dirty work, but being separate enough that he will pretend to be “moderate”

  6. Sam says:

    Ghannouchi said that “religion is a personal conviction, not to be imposed by the state”. But the Salfists want to impose religion by force and Ghannouchi recently called them his “brothers”. Double standards?

    I thought that the revolution was about the need for jobs and opportunities, especially for the young.

    It seems that Ghannouchi, almost single-handedly, has hijacked the revolution with his religious agenda. The debate now is almost exclusively about the religious future of Tunisia with very little said about the economic future. How else does he explain why there are much lower levels of tourism and foreign investment, fewer jobs and more poverty than before?

    I was in a barber shop in Sousse the other day and there was a lively political discussion among the five other Tunisians there. Someone mentioned Ghannouchi and suddenly the air was thick with expletives.

    The Tunisian people will have to decide whether they want Tunisia to be an Islamic state with a gradual descent into widespread poverty (because it is not oil rich like Saudi Arabia) or a vibrant open society with a great and prosperous future.

  7. skander says:

    What a hypocrite and a liar. First, one day he talks about Sharia and another he talks about secularism. However, if he is talking about having a secular state then what is the point of an Islamic party? Secondly, There is no religious freedom in Islam and he knows that very well. Apostates are executed, atheists and polytheists are killed. As for Christians and Jews, they must pay a special tax and be treated as second class citizens. Never mind the fact that Mohamed forced his followers into Jihad so he can have more woman to rape.

  8. soloway says:

    This man should have been president. All the more so because he gave up competing for it of his own free will. No disrespect to Marzouki who runs a close second.

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