President and co-founder of the Ennahda Party of Tunisia, Shiekh Rashid al-Ghannushi visits AMU

Aligarh, April 8:

The flame of Arab Spring is still burning in Tunisia, said Tunisian politician, President and co-founder of the Ennahda Party of Tunisia, Shiekh Rashid al-Ghannushi at the Aligarh Muslim University’s Polytechnic during his maiden visit.

“Even though unfortunate events have followed the renaissance of Arab Spring but Tunisia is showing the world that democracy can sustain in the Arab World,” added Shiekh Rashid.

Shiekh Rashid said that he has been informed by the AMU Pro Vice Chancellor, Brigadier S Ahmad Ali (retd) that AMU is one of the top most universities in the Indian sub-continent. “My visit to AMU is a dream which has come true. Since my childhood, I have been hearing and reading about AMU and its founder Sir Syed Ahmad Khan,” said Shiekh Rashid.

Talking about the important role of Islamic Tendency Movement in Tunisia, he said that the Movement has passed through tough times. “The struggle for ‘reconstruction of economic life on a more equitable basis, the end of single-party politics and the acceptance of political pluralism and democracy has been long but we have finally achieved it,” said Shiekh Rashid.

“International community and civil society still wonders as how is the flame of Arab Spring’s renaissance still burning in Tunisia while the neighboring countries have unrest. My answer to them is that since our party has an ideology of democracy co-existing with Islam, the flame is still burning,” said the Tunisian leader.

Shiekh Rashid added that Tunisian Democracy’s success is there because we recognize the rights of citizenship for all communities, equality of gender and an over all pluralistic society.

“Like India, we have a constitution which gives freedom to practice religion, freedom of choices, freedom to work and prosper and freedom of education,” said Shiekh Rashid who further added that our polity is based on reconciliation and consensus building.

He pointed out that in the first free election in the country’s history with a turn out of 51.1 percent of all eligible voters, the Ennahda Party party won 37.04 percent of the popular vote and 41 percent of 217 assembly seats. “Following examples of great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi, we decided to step down in January 2014 in order to make way for the final drafting of a constitution by a neutral interim government, followed by planned elections based on the new constitution,” he said.

Now, Tunisia’s ‘inclusive’ government is seen as a ‘success story’ for democracy after the perceived failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt, said the Tunisian leader.  

He also said that we denounced terrorism and blood shed and build an Islamic state based on reconciliation and other people’s citizenry. “We have followed the example of the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), when after his conquest of Makkah, he gave equal rights and citizenship even to His enemies,” said Shiekh Rashid, who also said that we have also drawn inspirations from the great South African leader, Nelson Mandela who forgave oppressors in his country after coming to power to avoid blood shed.

Talking about the recent Terrorist attack on a Museum in Tunisia, Shiekh Rashid said that the group behind the attack is in a very small minority. “However, even if terrorists are in small numbers, they are a danger to the civilized world and should be dealt with accordingly,” said the Arab leader.

Shiekh Rashid said that we in Tunisia believe that Terrorists can never be successful in their designs as ‘what is wrong, never prevails on what is right.’

Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor, Lt General Zameer Uddin Shah said that Arab Spring spread like a wild fire from Tunisia to other countries raising great hopes all over the world and unfortunately these hopes were not met in countries other than Tunisia.

“The Arab countries have a geographic proximity, common religion and common language but still blood shedding takes place in Middle-East because of radicalization, sect quarrels and political ambitions of leaders and this has led to unfulfilled aspirations of the young people who led the Arab Spring,” said General Shah.

“However, Shiekh Rashid’s view of democracy, inclusiveness and women rights prevails in Tunisia and we are very please to say that we adhere and follow the same principles in Aligarh Muslim University,” said General Shah who added that some day the Middle-Eastern countries with unrest will follow the example of Tunisia in bringing peace.     

Earlier, introducing Shiekh Rashid, the Aligarh Muslim University Pro Vice Chancellor, Brigadier Ali pointed out that Shiekh Rashid was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012 and Foreign Policy’s Top 100 Global Thinkers and was awarded the Chatham House Prize 2012 alongside Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki for ‘the successful compromises each achieved during Tunisia’s democratic transition.’

Brigadier Ali also said that Shiekh Rashid and his followers were arrested and sentenced to eleven years in prison and were tortured. “Both the religious and secular community, including numerous secular political organizations, rallied in his support,” said Brigadier Ali.

He also pointed out: “Shiekh Rashid was released in 1984, but returned to prison in 1987 with a life sentence, then was again released in 1988. He moved to Europe as a political exile, where he lived for decades. Shiekh Rashid continued to criticize Tunisian politics and the regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Following popular unrest in which Ben Ali was ousted, Shiekh Rashid returned to Tunisia after spending twenty two years exiled in London.”

Earlier, welcoming the guests, the chairman, Department of West Asian Studies, Mohammad Gulrez pointed said that Shiekh Rashid is the catalyst of the change which occurred during the Arab Spring. “Shiekh Rashid has shown the world that democracy and Islam can co-exist,” said Prof Gulrez. He also pointed out that AMU’s Department of West Asian Studies has many scholars researching on Arab Spring and Tunisia.

The Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof Kafeel A Qasmi, while delivering vote of thanks said that it is hoped that educational relations and cooperation between AMU and Tunisian universities will be beneficial for us.

On this occasion, AMU Students’ Union conferred up on him its Honorary Life Membership. The President of Students’ Union, Mr. Abdullah Azzam welcomed the chief guest.

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