Abou Yaareb Marzouki is a professor of Greek, German, and Arabic Philosophy, born on March 29, 1947 in Bizerte, Tunisia’s northernmost coastal city. He was the head of Ennahdha’s list in the Tunis 1 electoral district and acted as an adviser to former Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali.
He graduated from the Faculty of Humanities of Tunis in 1966. He then went to Ecole Normale Supérieure of Tunis from 1967 to 1969, and there he received his Diploma of Extensive Research and his Ph.D in Greek and Arabic Philosophy. He was awarded a Masters Degree in Philosophy from the Paris-Sorbonne University, a law degree from Assas University, Paris 4 and a German philosophy degree from Petit Palais, Paris 1.
He lived in Paris from 1971 until 1974. He taught philosophy in Bizerte at the Menzel Bourguiba High School from 1970 to 1971 and in Tunis at the Ibn Charaf High School from 1974 to 1980. He also taught at the Faculty of Humanities of Tunis from 1980 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2007.
He worked as a philosophy professor at the International Islamic University of Kuala Lumpur, Malysia from 2002 to 2005. He also taught in the Academy of Arts and Sciences, Beit El Hikma in Carthage, Tunisia.
During his early school years, Marzouki was a member of the Destour party, Habib Bourguiba’s ruling socialist party, from 1964 to 1966. In 1967, he ended his political activities with Destour.
The widely respected scholar’s announcement to run as an Ennahda candidate was met with astonishment by many progressive Tunisians, given that Marzouki is viewed as a free thinker. Indeed, Marzouki is adamant in declaring that he is not a member of the Islamist party, but is rather an independent candidate who approves of Ennahda’s electoral program and discourse.
“I gathered from their speeches that the Ennahda movement is not a classical Islamist movement; their movement is more political than religious,” said Marzouki.
In an interview with the Tunisian National TV station, Abou Yaareb Marzouki explained that the Tunisian Revolution was a consequence of bad economic and cultural factors, and contradicted the many claims that the revolution was leaderless and driven by digital technology.
“The bad economic and cultural climate added to a drive to restore one’s dignity, this led to a stage where people were ready to die rather than live a life of humiliation,” he explained.
“Bouazizi’s situation was symbolic of the Arab youth,” he added. According to Marzouki, Tunisia’s position as the birthplace of the Arab Spring should come as no surprise given its history.
“We were the historic home of one of the rare civilizations, Carthage, that opposed the Roman Empire,” said Marzouki.
Marzouki’s complex stance with regard to the role of religion in politics involves a belief that religious and political institutions should be kept separate but that on the level of values they can, and even must, mix.
“Religious institutions and political institutions should not be mixed together, a mosque cannot be turned into a party’s office and the party’s office cannot be turned into a mosque,” he declared. Drawing on ancient Islamic philosophy, Marzouki construes the values of religion as existing on a higher level than types of values politics traffics in.
“Religion rises above ideological manipulation,” Marzouki said, adding, “But that does not mean that religion has nothing to do with politics.”
For him religion and politics overlap in terms of what he calls “solidification,” or the putting into practice of abstract concepts.
“Politics aims at solidifying certain values that are shared with religion, and the latter seeks to make its values concrete, therefore, they blend,” he said.
Professor Marzouki has many publications and his works have been translated into German, French and English.