Ayman al-Zawahiri threatens Tunisia
By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 13/06/12
Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri this week attacked the moderate Islamist Ennahda Movement for failing to base Tunisia's new democratic constitution on strict Islamic law.
"The leaders of the Ennahda party claim to be a part of what they call moderate, enlightened Islam," al-Zawahiri said in the recording posted online Sunday (June 10th). "Well, let them call themselves whatever they want, but they are...one of the symptoms of our civilisational diseases," the terrorist said.
After Al-Zawahiri called on Tunisians to mount an uprising to "use Qur'an as source of rule", hundreds of salafists went on a violent rampage, torching police stations, art centres and other sites in several cities. The government was forced to declare a night-time curfew.
But the al-Qaeda head is "not in a psychological or political position to allow him to make a good evaluation of things anywhere in the world, including Tunisia", Ennahda spokesperson Najib El Gharbi said about the new tape.
"The battle that was invented by some people about Sharia is an imaginary battle because the Tunisian people were, and still are, adhering to the teachings of Islam and wouldn't relinquish them," El Gharbi added.
Riadh Sidaoui, director of the Arab Centre for Political and Social Studies in Geneva, told Magharebia that the "Ennahda Movement will find itself in conflict with both Wahhabism and jihadist salafism, i.e. al-Qaeda. It can't avoid this inevitable conflict forever."
"Ennahda is finding itself between two fires: that of the jihadist salafism on the one hand, and that of the scientific salafism on the other," Sidaoui added. "So far, it has avoided confrontation with both because it is currently focusing on the conflict against modernists in Tunisia."
According to Bassel Torjmen, a specialist of Islamic movements in the region, the latest terror tape follows a shift in al-Qaeda's organisational structure.
"This came following the death of many senior leaders of al-Qaeda who were affiliated with Osama Bin Laden, such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anwar al-Awlaki and al-Qaeda's top financial official who was killed a while ago in Pakistan," Torjmen told Magharebia.
"Al-Zawahiri wants to install himself as the leader of organisation, especially in the Islamic Maghreb, and to show that the group that now operates in southern Algeria, Mali and Mauritania is under his direct command," he added.
Meanwhile, the founder of Tunisia's first legal salafist party spoke out against the foreign involvement. "We accept advice, but we don't accept any interference in our own affairs," said Mohamed Khouja, the head of the Reform Front.
"My party will seek to gradually incorporate Islamic Sharia in the new Tunisian constitution without any coercion," he added.
Khouja also rejected al-Zawahiri's call for rising up against Ennahda, saying "it was the people who chose Ennahda through the ballot boxes."
"The rules of democracy dictate that we accept the other opinion and respect the people's decision," Khouja said.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get Magharebia's latest articles delivered to your inbox.