Tunisian Islamists Ennahda move to separate politics, religion

May 22, 2016

By Tarek Amara

Tunisia’s Islamist party Ennahda will separate its political and religious work, its chief said on Friday, moving away from its tradition of political Islam.

Ennahda was the first Islamist party to come to power in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring revolutions and it took part in the first government coalition after the overthrow of Tunisia’s autocratic leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

It won the first post-uprising election by appealing to many Tunisians who saw its Islamist identity as an antidote to the years of corruption and repression under the Ben Ali government in one of the region’s most secular nations.

Free elections, a new constitution and a compromise politics between secular and Islamist parties have helped Tunisia avoid the turmoil seen in several other Arab nations.

“Ennahda has changed from an ideological movement engaged in the struggle for identity, to a protest movement against the authoritarian regime, and now to a national democratic party,” Ghannouchi told supporters at a rally. “We must keep religion far from political struggles.”

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