Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Western Islamists Lionize Muslim Brotherhood Leader in Tunisian Prison

NewsWestern Islamists Lionize Muslim Brotherhood Leader in Tunisian Prison

In response to his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment on charges of incitement, Western Islamists are lauding Muslim Brotherhood leader Rached Ghannouchi, one of the most important Islamists in the world, as a champion of democracy and calling for his release. At the end of July, Islamists around the world marked the 100th day since the Tunisian government arrested its leading opposition figure by issuing a letter referring to him as “one of the founding fathers of democracy in Tunisia.”

The cause for all the destruction in Tunisia is the Muslim Brotherhood.

Tunisian journalist Nizar Jlidi

Prominent Islamists refer to Ghannouchi as one of the greatest Islamic thinkers of our time, providing guidance on how to Islamize society. In Tunisia, Ghannouchi founded the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Ennahda party, which eventually triumphed in the 2011 elections and promptly legalized an al-Qaeda affiliate and allowed the incitement of Tunisians to wage jihad.

On April 17, the Tunisian government, led by President Kais Saied, arrested Ghannouchi and charged him in May with plotting against state security. Saied has arrested over twenty of his political opponents this year, continuing a two-year “crackdown” in which he suspended the Tunisian parliament of which Ghannouchi served as speaker. Saied’s opponents refer to his actions as a “coup,” but his supporters celebrate “the humiliating exit of the Brotherhood.”

In response to Ghannouchi’s imprisonment, some Western Islamists have presented him as a champion of democracy and the last shred of hope for democratic freedom in Tunisia.

An open letter posted by Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and signed by over 150 academics and public figures, says the 81-year-old Ghannouchi “is recognised as one of the most prominent advocates of democracy in the Arab world and of Muslim democracy. He has been one of the most consistent voices of moderation and condemnation of extremism.”

Similarly, the Ennahda party is leading its own campaign to free Ghannouchi, issuing a July 28 letter with over eight hundred signatories, stating that his “sole crime is defying attempts to roll back Tunisia’s democratic gains.” The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), the Ennahda party’s American proxy, promoted both letters.

Several U.S.-based Islamists signed the second letter, including Nihad Awad and Esam Omeish. Nihad Awad is the Executive Director and co-founder of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, an organization that formed out of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Esam Omeish endorsed the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya in 2012 and previously served as President of another Muslim Brotherhood-linked group, the Muslim American Society. Awad and Omeish’s signatures join a host of Muslim Brotherhood members, a U.S.-deported terror fundraiser, Sami Al-Arian, and Tariq Ramadan, a European Islamist academic, among other prominent Islamist voices.

The U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) – an umbrella group for American Islamist organizations – also called for Ghannouchi’s release, as did Türkiye’s Islamist President Erdoğan.

Despite the accolades laid on Ghannouchi, not everyone has such a rosy view of the Ennahda party leader. Ghannouchi founded what became the Ennahda party in 1981, modeling it after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

In 1991, a State Department cable named Ghannouchi as one of several Muslim Brotherhood leaders who aspired to “worldwide jihad.” In 1994, the U.S. reportedly banned Ghannouchi from entering the United States for supporting Palestinian terrorism. In 2011, Ghannouchi likened Israel to cancer attacking the human body.

Within Tunisia, Ghannouchi stands accused of corruption, money laundering, and helping jihadists get to Iraq and Syria. In February, Ghannouchi celebrated the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran by delivering a speech at the Iranian embassy in Tunisia. “I would like to congratulate the Iranian people and the nation – both the state and the people. We wish all the best to this [Islamic] Revolution, which has played a major role in the Islamic revival across the world. We wish this [Revolution] all the best, and further achievements and success,” he said.

As previously noted by the Middle East Forum, while in power from 2012 to 2014, Ennahda looked the other way as Salafi-jihadists took control of mosques and encouraged the Tunisian youth to wage jihad in Syria, which they did in large numbers. The Ennahda government also permitted Al-Qaeda linked organizations such as Ansar Al-Sharia Tunisia (AST), to recruit teenagers and organize rallies where participants expressed support for Bin Laden.

In January 2021, Tunisian journalist Nizar Jlidi blamed the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of Ghannouchi for the country’s woes. “This is the 10th anniversary of the usurpation of Tunisia. Whoever still believes in the dream of the revolution, should notice that this dream has dissolved and became an illusion. The reality is that the country has been usurped, and the people are getting hungrier by the day,” he said to Sky News Arabia, adding, “The cause for all the destruction in Tunisia is the Muslim Brotherhood. The Ennahda movement is plotting against the Tunisian people because it wants to take revenge against the Tunisians.”

Tunisian MP Abir Moussi assails Rached Ghannouchi in 2020. (YouTube screenshot.)

In 2020, during Ghannouchi’s speakership of the Tunisian parliament, Tunisian MP Abir Moussi, said, “It is beneath our honor to have, as Speaker of this parliament, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who is trying to spread a plan of darkness,” adding that he “falsified democracy” and pitted Muslims and non-Muslims against each other.

“Since you came back, the political assassinations have returned. You sanction the killing of the Tunisian people. You sanction the killing of people working for the security agencies. You sanction the killing of military personnel. You have suppressed the judiciary and human rights,” said Moussi.

Meanwhile, Islamists around the world laud Ghannouchi as a hero and champion of democracy.


Susannah Johnston is Focus on Western Islamism’s investigative reporter.

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