Tunisian Islamist in favor of mild Shariah
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 10/7/2011 12:00:00 AM | İPEK YEZDANİ - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tunisia’s most important Islamist party would prefer to see a mild form of Shariah law implemented in the North African country rather than 'neo-laicism.'
Tunisia’s most important Islamist party would prefer to see a mild form of Shariah law implemented in the North African country rather than the “neo-laicism” promoted by Turkey’s prime minister during a recent visit to Tunis, the party’s leader has said.
“What is meant by secularism is different between the Arab world and Turkey. In the Arab world, secularism has been linked in recent decades with dictatorship and with oppression, whereas secularism in Turkey is linked to democracy and freedom of choice,” Rachid Ghannouchi, the leader of the front-running Ennahda Party, told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on Oct. 7.
“Shariah is not something that is alien or strange to our societies,” Ghannouchi said, adding that Tunisian society was familiar with Shariah law and that some aspects of Islamic law were already enshrined in both Tunisian and Egyptian legal codes. “We don’t see Shariah as intervening in people’s private lives and to their freedom to wear what they want. Personal freedom is very important for us.”
Ghannouchi said there were different types of secularism even in Turkey. “The secularism promoted by Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, which is close to Anglo-Saxon secularism, respects people’s freedom of choice and is neutral in regards to religion. The other secularism, which is Marxist secularism or French ‘laicite,’ is forced upon people and is anti-religion,” he added.
“There is the Turkish model of bringing together modernity and Islam, and we can have a Tunisian model that may be different in bringing together modernity and Islam. All share the same principles but there might be some differences between them,” Ghannouchi said, adding that they nonetheless believed the Turkish democratic model was very close to the model that they would like to have in Tunisia.
Erdoğan had issued calls for the North African Arab Spring countries of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya to adopt “neo-laicism” during his trip to the countries last month. But while Ghannouchi differentiated between Anglo-Saxon and French secularisms, the Turkish prime minister slammed Western secularism.
“[Ours] is not secularism in the Anglo-Saxon or Western sense; a person is not secular, the state is secular,” Erdoğan said, describing Turkey as democratic and secular. “A Muslim can govern a secular state in a successful way. In Turkey, 99 percent of the population is Muslim, and it did not pose any problem. You can do the same here.”
[HH] Gender equality in elections
Ultimately, Ghannouchi said his dream was to see Tunisia “free, democratic, developed and at peace with its own identity and at peace with modernity.”
Enhanda is “a moderate party,” he said. “Our party seeks to combine democracy, which is a Western product, with Islam, which is our own heritage.”
The Ennahda leader also said his party supported the principle of establishing a quota for women for parliamentary elections to take place in two weeks’ time.
“According to the new law, 50 percent of the election lists have to have women candidates. Many of our lists are headed by women, [some of whom] don’t wear a hijab. We have challenged many of the parties who claim to be liberal and who claim to respect women,” Ghannouchi said, adding that his party challenged these liberal competitors to name head-scarved women on their lists.
The most important issue is to emphasize the importance of equality between all people and the principle of equal citizenship between men and women, he said. “All people should be treated equally regardless of their faith and regardless of their gender, whether they are male or female.”
Ghannouchi said that although he was the leader of the party, he would not be a candidate in the next elections. “I want to give an opportunity to young people, because this revolution was made by young people.”