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Ennahda's caliphate talk causes outcry

TUNIS | 11/16/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Tunisia’s secularists said their fears about an Islamist takeover were being realized Nov. 15 after a senior official in the moderate Islamist party which won last month’s election invoked the revival of a caliphate, or Islamic state.

Tunisia’s secularists said their fears about an Islamist takeover were being realized Nov. 15 after a senior official in the moderate Islamist party which won last month’s election invoked the revival of a caliphate, or Islamic state.

 Footage posted on the Internet showed Hamadi Jbeli, the secretary-general of the Ennahda party, telling supporters that “We are in the sixth caliphate, God willing.”

 The caliphate was a system for governing Islamic empires based on sharia law. There were five caliphates under different dynasties until Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the last of them early last century.

 The remarks by Jbeli -- his party’s nominee to be the next prime minister -- complicated Ennahda’s efforts to form a coalition government, leading one prospective partner to say it was partly suspending negotiations in protest.

 Ennahda has reassured Tunisians it will not impose a Muslim moral code on society and will respect women’s equality, but the comments by Jbeli were interpreted by secularists as evidence the party has a hidden agenda.

 Khemais Ksila, a member of the executive committee of the Ettakatol party, which is in coalition talks with Ennahda, said the party was suspending its participation in two of the three committees which were working on a coalition deal. “We do not accept this statement,” he said. “We thought we were going to build a second republic with our partner, not a sixth caliphate.”

 However, an Ennahda official said that the party’s opponents were deliberately misreading what Jbeli had said.

 “Jbeli was intending to speak about good governance and a break with corruption ... not the establishment of an Islamic regime,” Faouzi Kamoun, the director of Jbeli’s office, said.

[HH] Tunisia picks rights activist as president

A veteran human rights activist was selected as Tunisia’s new interim president on Tuesday, a party official says.

Moncef Marzouki, the head of the Congress for the Republic, will take on the role for the next year while a new constitution is being written, according to an official close to the party. Marzouki, a physician who headed the Tunisian League of Human Rights, was once jailed for four months in 1994 for attempting to run for president against long-serving dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was overthrown by a popular uprising in January.

Compiled from Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

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