When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Mosque & State: Tunisia's Moderate Islamist Party Is Favored In Next Month's Vote

Tunisia's Nahda party is working to improve its image amongst foreigners and skeptical secularist voters. But it does not renounce its desire for a democracy based on Islamic values.

Rashid Al-Ghannushi, leader of Islamist Nahda party, on the right(Magharebia)
Rashid Al-Ghannushi, leader of Islamist Nahda party, on the right(Magharebia)
Julie Gommes

TUNIS – At a meeting last week, Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Nahda (Renaissance) outlined its policy proposals for next month's parliamentary elections. Simultaneous translation headphones, staff hired specifically to answer every foreign journalists' whim: everything was aimed at improving the party's image, as Tunisians voters prepare to vote next month. Indeed, Nahda is leading in the polls.

The party's program, a mix of Turkey's market-oriented Islamism and more traditional values, included such measures as economic reform, a new union of Arab countries and the reduction of women's weekly working hours, so that they can "devote more time to their families."

The gathering opened with the assembly chanting verses from the Koran and every speech began with "In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful." This probably won't improve the party's image in Tunis, a city that is increasingly Europeanized. But Nahda knows that it's in villages that it will win seats for the Constituent Assembly. Therefore, the program underlines the importance of fishing and farming, but also stresses the need to raise low salaries and give more to poor families.

Besides outlining the party's program, Nadha also wanted to emphasize its modernity: "Islamists have always been misunderstood. We only want to keep the most objective principles, like peace and science. Religion is between you and God," confessed Mondher Ounissi, a doctor. Supporters have mastered a well-oiled speech. It is impossible to find out where the campaign funds come from or what kind of society the party has in mind.

Nahda's president, Rashid Al-Ghannushi, learned the lessons of the revolution and now advocates "a participative society, a market-oriented economy supported by a new social contract." He says he wants to build "a democratic regime based on the values of Islam." Tunisians may be in for the long haul as there have been repeated talks of "extending the planned two presidential terms."

In the streets of Tunis, these ideas aren't welcome - especially among the youth: "If I wanted to invite a female friend to a flat I share with friends, she wouldn't be able to stay overnight. The whole neighborhood would start gossiping. She'd be in trouble," a very young supporter confessed, even though he said he couldn't see himself anywhere but among Islamists in the future. "It's a fairer society. Some complain about order and restrictions, but what we're looking for is dignity."

Not a word about headscarves

Riding the wave of fashionable themes – an independent judiciary system, a strong cooperation between the people and the state and above all, creating about 600,000 jobs – Nahda wants to create an Arab Maghreb Union to challenge the Union for the Mediterranean when it comes to dealing with Europe. The same goes for the economy: a "common North African market with our Libyan and Egyptian brothers," coupled with investments that would contribute to "GDP growth."

There was, however, no word on the Islamic headscarf or on polygamy (Tunisia is the region's only country where men are allowed to marry only one woman). Rashid Al-Ghannushi only mentioned the decline in the number of divorces as a result of the decision to reduce women's weekly working hours.

And finally, when asked about what kind of relationship he would want between Tunisia and Europe, the Islamist leader avoids any commitment and speaks of "respecting treaties' and "getting involved in the long-term." Nothing new, then, except an impressive U-turn in terms of communication, one month before the elections.

Read the original story in French

Photo -Magharebia

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Settlers, Prisoners, Resistance: How Israeli Occupation Ties Gaza To The West Bank

The fate of the West Bank is inevitably linked to the conflict in Gaza; and indeed Israeli crackdowns and settler expansion and violence in the West Bank is a sign of an explicit strategy.

Settlers, Prisoners, Resistance: How Israeli Occupation Ties Gaza To The West Bank

Israeli soldiers take their positions during a military operation in the Balata refugee camp, West Bank.

Riham Al Maqdama


CAIRO — Since “Operation Al-Aqsa Flood” began on October 7, the question has been asked: What will happen in the West Bank?

A review of Israel’s positions and rhetoric since 1967 has always referred to the Gaza Strip as a “problem,” while the West Bank was the “opportunity,” so that former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli settlements from Gaza in 2005 was even referred to as an attempt to invest state resources in Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank.

For the latest news & views from every corner of the world, Worldcrunch Today is the only truly international newsletter. Sign up here.

This separation between Gaza and the West Bank in the military and political doctrine of the occupation creates major challenges, repercussions of which have intensified over the last three years.

Settlement expansion in the West Bank and the continued restrictions of the occupation there constitute the “land” and Gaza is the “siege” of the challenge Palestinians face. The opposition to the West Bank expansion is inseparable from the resistance in Gaza, including those who are in Israeli prisons, and some who have turned to take up arms through new resistance groups.

“What happened in Gaza is never separated from the West Bank, but is related to it in cause and effect,” said Ahmed Azem, professor of international relations at Qatar University. “The name of the October 7 operation is the Al-Aqsa Flood, referring to what is happening in Jerusalem, which is part of the West Bank.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest