Last updated: 20 November, 2011

Tunisian Islamist party leader argues for moderate Islam

Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party, on Sunday argued for a modern and democratic concept of Islam after talks with his Algerian counterpart.

Ghannouchi held talks with Bouguerra Soltani, president of the Movement for the Society of Peace, an Islamist party that is part of the ruling coalition.

“Tunisia wants to hold up a model to society in which Islam is not a synonym of terrorism, fanaticism, extremism or hostility to democracy,” he said, the Algerian APS agency reported.

“The model the Tunisian nation has been working towards, through reform movements dating back to the 19th century, is a model that reconciles Islam, modernity and democracy,” he added.

The new Tunisian parliament would allow Tunisia to reconstruct itself “on a truly democratic basis that reflects the will of the people”, he added.

Ghannouchi’s Ennahda emerged the largest party from the October 23 poll to elect a constituent assembly tasked with drawing up a new constitution for Tunisia.

On his arrival in Algeria on Saturday, he was met at the airport by the president of the Senate, AbdelKader Bensalah, an honour normally reserved for heads of state.

He is also due to meet Abdelaziz Belkhadem, leader of the FLN, also part of the ruling coalition, FLN spokesman Kassa Aissi told AFP.

“Mr. Ghannouchi is a political figure from a brother country,” Aissi said, adding that during the 1980s he had been a refugee there.

Ennahda won 89 of the seats in the 217 strong assembly, ahead of the 29 won by the left-wing nationalist Congress for the Republic party (CPR) and the 20 seats of the leftist liberal Ettakatol (Forum) party.

Hamadi Jebali, Ennahda’s second most senior figure, is set to be nominated as prime minister in a power-sharing deal worked out by the assembly’s three main parties.