ANALYSIS-What role for the Islamists in the new Tunisia?

Fri Jan 21, 2011 6:23pm GMT

Despite the state's crackdown on Ennahda, the movement is considered moderate and could draw widespread support.

Ghannouchi, a respected scholar, teaches that Islam is compatible with democracy. Having lived in London for over 20 years, he also advocates dialogue with the West.

That view was repeated by worshippers at the Quds mosque in Tunis, many of whom identified themselves as Islamists though they wore Western suits, spoke French and were clean shaven.

"Tunisia is a small country but it has room for everyone and everyone's ideas. They thought there would be chaos in Tunisia but we are united. We do not have Shi'ites, Christians, Jews. We are all Sunni Muslims and this unites us," worshipper Rida Harrathi told Reuters before Friday prayers.

"Of course Ennahda will play a big role in the elections. It is from the people. It did not come from outside, from another planet. It is part of us and these people made a big sacrifice, as did the honourable members of the communists and the unions."


The end of Ben Ali's rule could see a marked growth in the outward expression of faith.

Bourguiba, who saw himself as a modernising leader akin to Turkey's Kemal Ataturk, famously called the veil an "odious rag". He seized properties held by Islamic trusts, closed their courts and enshrined secular family codes.   Continued...

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