Tunisian Islamist leader calls for unity in transitional phase

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CAIRO: Rashid Al-Ghannushi, head of the Renaissance Party, an Islamist Tunisian party, highlighted the need for harmony and unity during this transitional phase in Egypt and Tunisia, calling on Islamists not to be stringent since this has proven its failure.

“Our differences should not separate us in order for the ship to not sink,” he said.

Speaking at a lecture Sunday at Al-Azhar Conference Hall under the auspices of Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayyeb, Al-Ghannushi said that during transitional phase successfully, Muslims and Christians must unite, stressing on the need for equality.

“Islam is a rational religion that accepts differences and accepts all religions,” he said. “All dictators want to homogenize their nations, but Islam accepts differences. These differences should be recognized and lead in a modern peaceful way.”

Al-Ghannushi said that an Islamic nation should offer all its citizens an appropriate environment and meet their basic needs. He also added that in order for the Islamic state to be a revolutionary state, it has to respond to the revolution’s demands.

“We are in an important phase in our history, because of the uprisings [in the Arab world]. There are no longer obstacles in the way of [implementing Islamic principles],” Al- Ghannushi said.

Al-Ghannushi explained that Islam is a religion and a nation that cannot be separated.

“What differentiates Al-Hijaz from the rest of the world is that it is a country that was not exhausted by dictatorship. Islam lives freely in it,” he said.

“The aim of Islam is to free it from the nation’s power. Islamic scholars should have more intellectual, cultural influence in the country,” he explained. “Islam is a nation and this nation should be based on the Islamic creed and culture, which is the best law for a country.”

Al-Ghannushi studied at the University of Zaytuna. He also lived and studied in Damascus, Cairo and France.

In 1981, Al-Ghannushi founded the Islamic Tendency Movement, which described itself as specifically rooted in Islam.

Al-Ghannushi was arrested several times until he moved to Europe as a political exile where he stayed until the early 1990s.

Al-Ghannushi continued to criticize Tunisian politics and the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. He returned to Tunisia following the ouster of Ben Ali earlier this year to legalize the Renaissance Party.



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