WaPo: 'Moderate Islamists Lead in Tunisia Vote'; Paper Omits Support for Islamic Revolution of 1979

The "moderate Islamist group" Ennahdha appears to have garnered the most support in last week's elections in Tunisia, Leila Fadel of the Washington Post reported in the October 25 paper.

Fadel noted that Ennahdha was "brutally repressed' during longtime dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's reign and insisted that the party now has broad appeal "not only [among] the religious but also socially conservative voters who saw it as an authentic Tunisian party that respects the Arab and Islamic character of the nation."

Yet nowhere in Fadel's story does the Post correspondent note that Ennahdha -- which means Renaissance in English -- supported the Islamic Revolution in Iran, has backed terrorism, and been generally anti-American in its rhetoric, Jerusalem Post's Oren Kessler noted yesterday:

The party supported the 1979 embassy takeover in Iran, and evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s. In 1991 its operatives attacked the headquarters of Ben Ali’s party, killing one person and throwing acid in the faces of several others, and that same year Ghannouchi called for attacks on US interests in the Middle East in response to America’s invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War.

Ennahda’s founding ideology was largely shaped by that of Sayyid Qutb, a leading ideologue of the grandfather of all Islamist groups, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Ennahda still maintains ties with the Brotherhood, but the Tunisian party prefers to compare itself with another political model: Turkey’s ruling AK party, which though religious in its founding and nature, has stopped short of calling for the imposition of Shari’a.

Kessler also noted the troubling moves Tunisia's interim government has made this year concerning religious freedom and minority rights, particularly for Jews:

Since Ben Ali’s ouster, however, Tunisian secularists have pointed to a disconcerting trend toward xenophobia and religious extremism.

In February, footage uploaded to YouTube showed hundreds of protesters converged on Tunis’ Grand Synagogue after Friday prayers shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” Khaybar was a Jewish oasis in Arabia conquered by the Muslims in the seventh century.

Jews were forced to pay tribute and later expelled. Tunisia’s Jewish population – more than 100,000 in 1948 – is now less than 2,000.

In July, a draft constitution compiled by the country’s interim authorities included a clause banning normalization with Israel. Some constitutional committee members from secularist parties called to remove the clause, but Ennahda – along with Arab nationalist and extreme left factions – supported its inclusion.

Foreign Policy Africa Middle East Religion Islam Washington Post Government & Press Oren Kessler Leila Fadel