In This Review

The Politicisation of Islam: A Case Study of Tunisia
The Politicisation of Islam: A Case Study of Tunisia
By Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi
Westview Press, 1998, 204 pp.

The major issue observers raise concerning the fundamentalist Tunisian Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI), founded in 1981 and succeeded in 1989 by Hizb al-Nahdah, is: Was the movement at first moderate and thus a candidate for co-optation into the system? Or were its democratic pretensions tactical cover for a strategic plan to take power by any means? Hamdi, a party activist from 1978 to 1992, sees the movement as having soon created a secret revolutionary organization. As early as December 1986 MTI prepared for a possible coup even though civil leadership still hoped to control the military wing. And Prime Minister Zein El-Abdin Ben Ali's constitutional coup ousting President Habib Bourguiba in 1987 preempted an MTI coup planned for 48 hours later. Hamdi, however, sees the alleged 1991 attempted coup by Nahdah as trumped up by Ben Ali to dismantle MTI, already isolated from other parties and experiencing internal splits. Hamdi offers much more, including a study of the MTI leader Rachid Ghanouchi's changing ideological positions and the larger historical context of Tunisia in its relations with Islam, Arabism, and Westernization.