I just got round to listening to Radio 4’s Analysis programme which a couple of weeks ago interviewed the influential Tunisian Islamic thinker, Rashid Ghannushi, the founder of the an-Nahda party which won the largest share of the vote in recent elections in that country.
Ghannushi – whom I was privileged to meet several times while he was in exile in the UK for over twenty years from 1991 to 2011 – has long championed the compatibility between Islam and democracy. Now that his party has been the biggest beneficiary of democratic elections, R4 sought to ask him whether he would try and impose ‘Islamic values’ on the rest of Tunisian society.
Some of Ghannushi’s answers were very interesting and shows how far modern Islamic thought has evolved since the days of Hasan al-Banna and Sayyid Mawdudi. For example, Ghannushi openly says that ‘we don’t want a religious state. We want a civic state where the source of legitimacy is the people, the society.’
There is also a good soundbite from one of Ghannushi’s former students, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, who is a member of PAS, the Malaysian Islamic Party who says that Ghannushi has influenced large sections of the Islamic movement so that ‘we are not talking about an Islamic state anymore, we are talking about good governance, about developing the economy…’.
The R4 programme is 30 mins long and well worth a listen.