Political Islam in Tunisia: The History of Ennahda

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Political Islam in Tunisia: The History of Ennahda
By Anne Wolf
Oxford University Press, 2017
304 pp.

Are Rached Ghannouchi and his Ennahda Party in Tunisia true democrats or merely tactical ones? Wolf spent four years and conducted 400 interviews trying to answer that question. She declines to give a definitive judgment but hints that the commitment to democracy may be more opportunistic than doctrinal. Ghannouchi is at the liberal end of the Ennahda spectrum, and the party’s rank and file may not be with him. Wolf stresses, however, that Tunisia’s political culture is rooted in a history of reform, and Ennahda likes to cast itself as the inheritor of the reformist mantle. After decades of repression, Ennahda began to operate legally only in 2011, when a broad-based revolt drove President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali from power. Since then, the party has grappled with issues such as the tension between civil and religious law and the question of whether Muslims and non-Muslims should be considered equal under the law. Aside from a lack of internal consensus on such questions, Ennahda’s main weakness, Wolf contends, is its failure to put forward an explicit economic philosophy.

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