Tunisian Islamic party fares slightly better than the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt because Tunisia is not strategically important and it is not oil-rich.
The Islamic party, al-Nahda, was the clear winner out of a crowded field of some 100 parties but it did not gain an absolute majority because of the way the electoral process was structured. Even so, party leaders were at pains to assure the secularists — and indeed the West — that al-Nahda had no plans to establish an Islamic state.
Every June, ceremonies are held to commemorate the passing away of Imam Khomeini in 1989. This year, these ceremonies gain added significance in view of the uprisings underway in the Muslim East. Zafar Bangash, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought, compares the Imam’s leadership with the near-leaderless movements in the Muslim East.
Since the first stirrings of revolt erupted in Tunisia on December 17, 2010, the entire Islamic East has been engulfed in civil uprisings. Two tyrants — General Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and General Hosni Mubarak — have been swept from power.
Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi has been forced out of office in the face of determined demands of protesters. Ghannouchi announced his resignation at a press conference in Tunis after a long rambling speech on television extolling his virtues and his record in government.
General Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s ouster from power has opened Tunisia’s political landscape somewhat. Political parties and various groups, such as trade unions and lawyers’ associations, are jostling to secure an advantageous position in the uncertain political climate that currently reflects Tunisian society. Political parties that existed legally were obviously tainted by cooperation with the regime.
The Tunisian dictator, General Zine el-Abidin Ben Ali has been driven from power. The leaderless uprising that forced his departure has been dubbed a “revolution” and Ben Ali’s flight has aroused hopes among people in the Middle East that they too can get rid of their dictators, most of them aging and in power for far too long.
Tunisia’s popular revolt over the month of January 2011 has produced a domino effect over the Middle East, sparking demonstrations and revolts in countries such as Yemen, Algeria, and also Egypt.
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian dictator, fled the country on January 14 amid mounting protests over high unemployment, escalating food prices, widespread government corruption and severe restrictions on people's freedoms.
When a government official announced on November 5th that 21 people sentenced to long prison terms for belonging to a banned “Islamist party” had been released as part of celebrations to mark the twenty-first anniversary of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s rise to power in 1987, the irony in the announcement could not have been lost on the Tunisian people.
In the past decade, the US has been able to replace France as the most influential foreign power in former French colonies such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. Given the US’s status as the “world’s sole superpower” and its ruthless determination to entrench and exploit that status, it is not strange that France lost its self-confidence as a world power and played second fiddle to Washington even in its own former colonies.
There is hardly any doubt that the majority of the people in the three Maghreb countries – Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia – believe their leaders to be autocratic, corrupt and closely allied with the West against Islamic groups in the region. Add to this belief the fact that wealth in all three countries is monopolised by rich elites, while most people are deprived and poor, and it becomes plain why there is so much popular resistance to the ruling elites and the long-serving rulers they maintain in power.
Those Muslims and Islamic movement activists who support ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’ understandings of Islam often get a bad press within the movement. This is understandable, for many are nothing more than apologists for the wholesale importation of Western political thought into the Muslim world, and with it – whether they realize it or not – Western political hegemony into the Muslim world.
A referendum in Tunisia, held on May 26 to approve amendments to the constitution proposed by president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, secured 99.52 percent of the votes cast. This result makes it possible for Ben Ali to stay in office until 2014, and gives him immunity from prosecution for life.
Shaikh Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, the exiled leader of Tunisia’s An-Nahda Islamic movement, led a five-day hunger-strike by 20 protestors outside the Tunisian embassy in London fron October 20-24. The protest was in support of Islamic activists imprisoned in Tunisian jails...
Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, president of Tunisia, is applauded in western capitals for maintaining peace and stability in his country. This he has achieved by bludgeoning the Islamic party, An-Nahdha, into submission with mass arrests, imprisonments, torture and exile. At the same time, he maintains a reputation for respecting human rights.
By all accounts Tunisia’s president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali managed to keep a straight face when officials of an Italian University conferred on him an honorary doctorate at a Rome ceremony on December 4.
Tunisia’s president Zeinal-Abidin Ben Ali is no ‘democrat’ by any stretch of the imagination, while his vicious crackdown on the country’s Islamic movement is well-documented.