Is Tunisia’s Ennahda party renouncing ‘Islamism’, its doctrinaire sine qua non and the basis of its foundational identity?
Over a three-day congress, the party’s first since 2012, members discussed the question through heated but pluralist debates. Ennahda, a movement that emerged in the late 1970s as a national political party with an Islamic frame of reference, is now committing to separate the religious (al-da’awi ) from the political (al-siyasi).
A vision that was upheld for more than three decades has ceded to a new brand of civic Islamism. That is, by analogy, a neo-Ennahda has not only edged closer to the notion of a civil state, but also to Turkey’s ruling AK Party and further from Egypt’s standard Muslim Brotherhood or “Ikhwani” model: The former operates politics with minimum ideology, the latter has historically harboured ambitions of Islamising polity.
This is why in one of his interventions during the congress, the party’s president, Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, was adopting a new discourse angled at stressing the primacy of the market, economic growth, renouncing the politics of identity, very much part of the fundamentals of his thought for more than 30 years.