By OREN KESSLER
Analysis: Ennahda seeks “moderate” Shari’a state, but members have history of violence, current platform raises questions about role of Islam.
Western media routinely describe Tunisia’s Ennahda party as “moderately Islamist.” The once-banned movement’s own past, however, reveals a tendency to violence, and its current platform raises serious questions about the role of Islam in arguably the Arab world’s most secular state.
Ennahda, or “Renaissance” has its roots in the Islamist university groups that proliferated in the Muslim world’s universities following the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The party was officially founded in 1989, two years into the 14-year reign of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Two years later Ben Ali banned the party, and over the course of his term jailed tens of thousands of its leaders.
Ennahda was legalized in January of this year, following Ben Ali’s ouster in a month-long popular revolt. One thousand supporters welcomed back the party’s founder and leader, 70-yearold Rachid Ghannouchi, on his return to Tunis from European exile in January.
The Islamist party now appears set to take a majority, or at least a plurality, in the Arab world’s first post-revolutionary elections. Ballots were held Sunday and results are expected the following day.