Tunisian media is reporting on a discussion, presumably held in Tunisia, hosted by the U.S.-based Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) and featuring Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi. According to the Tunisia Live report:
Rached Ghannouchi, founder of the Islamist Ennahda party, stated in a debate held yesterday that religion is a personal conviction, not to be imposed by the state. ”Freedom is the foundation of Islam,” he declared. Ghannouchi spoke yesterday at a discussion, hosted by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), on the topic of “Secularism and the Relationship between Religion and State from Ennahdha’s Prespective.” Ghannouchi presented his point of view regarding secularism and religion to an audience consisting of politicians, intellectuals and the Head of the National Constituent Assembly, Mustapha Ben Jaafer. According to Ghannouchi, secularism appeared in the West as a “procedural solution” to solve problems when Protestant dissidents split away from the Catholic Church. “At first glance, it seems that secularism is a philosophy that came to fight religious views. However, this is not the case,” he stated. The Ennahdha leader added that separating religion from the state is “an adventure” that could harm both religion and state if not done properly. ”The emancipation of the state from religion can be a way of transforming the state into a mafia, looting the economy and leading widespread political deceit if not done correctly… people are deeply in need for religion, to differentiate between what is forbidden (haram) and what is allowed (hallel) in their everyday lives,” he continued. Governments that either force their people to adhere to religious practices or restrict the religious freedom of citizens are dangerous and unnatural, according to Ghannouchi. He gave an anecdote of his visit to an Islamic country that forces women to wear the veil. “When I got on the plane to leave, all of the women were covering their hair, but once in the air, most of the women removed their headscarves. This shows religion is a personal conviction that can not be forced or imposed on others.” Moderate Islam and “partial secularism” both guarantee the same principles in Ghannouchi’s view. “Freedom is a fundamental principle in Islam, religion can not be forced on believers,” he added. ”Religion is not meant to give us guidance in all areas of industrial management, agricultural innovation, and governance, those subjects require human reason. Religion, however, gives us a code of values and principles,” he explained. Ghannouchi also argued that democracy is the best illustration of the value of shura, or consultation, in Islam.”
Rachid Ghannouchi (many spelling variations) is the leader of the Tunisian Islamist movement known as Nahda (aka Ennahda, Al Nahda) and can best be described as an independent Islamist power center who is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood though his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) and his important position in the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), both organizations led by Global Muslim Brotherhood Youssef Qaradawi. An Egyptian news report has identified Ghannouchi as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood “abroad.” Ghannouchi is also one of the founding members of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi organization closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to the propagation of “Wahabist” Islam throughout the world. Ghannouchi is known for his thinking on the issue of Islam and citizenship rights. Earlier posts reported on the return of Mr. Ghannouchi to Tunisia following his long exile in the UK. Other posts have detailed his extremist background
CSID was founded in 1998 largely by the efforts of Georgetown University academic Dr. Esposito who during the 1990′s served in the State Department as a “foreign affairs analyst” and who has at least a dozen past or present affiliations with global Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas organizations. Many members of the early CSID board were associated with the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) the American Muslim Council, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), all parts of the US Muslim Brotherhood. For example, past CSID board members included Jamal Barzinji and Taha Al-Alwani, both associated with IIIT and both important leaders in the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood who helped to establish many of the most important U.S.Brotherhood organizations. Antony Sullivan, the current CSID Vice-Chair, has many ties to U.S. Brotherhood groups including the Association of Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), the United Association for Studies and Research (USAR), and the Circle of Tradition and Progress (COTP), a group whose other founding members included Youssef Qaradawi, the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood. From its inception, CSID has argued that the U.S. government should support Islamist movements in foreign countries and has received financial support from the U.S. State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Institute of Peace.