TUNIS (ANS) -- Widely seen as the most secular country that recently deposed long-standing leaders, many believed that Tunisia had the greatest opportunity to elect a moderate government concerned with democratic principles and human rights. However, the hopes of secularists, Christians, and other minorities were crippled in October when the Islamist Ennahda party won 41% of the votes for a national constitutional assembly
, a one-year body charged with writing a constitution. Along with other Islamist movements, Ennahda – at the time called the Movement of the Islamic Tendency
– had been outlawed under former President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali.... Ennahda’s founder and chairman is Rashid Ghannouchi. He considers himself a pupil of Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini,
defended the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, and supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait in 1990. In a speech given in Khartoum just before the Gulf War erupted, Ghannouchi said, “We must wage unceasing war against the Americans until they leave the land of Islam, or we will burn and destroy all their interests across the entire Islamic world”
Martin Kramer, the renowned Middle East scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, labeled Ghannouchi “the most prominent Islamist in the West
” during his 22-year exile in the U.K. At an Islamic Conference on Palestine attended by leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1990, Ghannouchi said, “The greatest danger to civilization, religion and world peace is the United States Administration. It is the Great Satan.” The international community has ignored this extremist rhetoric and extolled Tunisia’s revolutionary motives for ‘greater freedoms.’ However, Ennahda is beginning to show its true colors by attacking freedom of speech and tacitly disregarding violent Islamist movements calling for an Islamic state.
Death of Free Speech
Nabil Karoui, the owner of Tunisian channel Nessma TV, is currently on trial for blasphemy
after airing the French-Iranian animated film Persepolis which features a cartoon depiction of God and is considered sacrilege to some Muslims. Nearly 140 lawyers filed lawsuits against Karoui for “violating sacred values” and “disturbing public order,” Tunisia Live reported. Following the release of the film in Tunisia, a Salifist-led mob damaged Karoui’s house with Molotov cocktails on October 14. If convicted, Karoui could face three to five years in prison. His trial has been adjourned until April 19, 2012.