A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ghannouchi "Secret Video" Causing Furor in Tunisia

Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Tunisia's Al-Nahda Party, the largest party in Parliament, has fallen into the trap Mitt Romney fell into with the "47%" video and other US politicians keep stumbling over: forgetting that everyone with a cell phone is a videographer these days, and what you say in a private meeting may end up on YouTube tomorrow. Ghannouchi, who has been the face of moderate Islamist politics in Tunisia since the Revolution, is shown cautioning his more radically Salafi discussants how to take over more elements of Tunisian society. Secularists are proclaiming that  the video shows that Al-Nahda's present moderation is for show and that Ghannouchi secretly aims at a much more radical Islamist agenda, The basic story can be found here and here;
 also an account here; reactions from various political quarters here, including Al-Nahda's attempts to explain (blaming "unfair editing": so they're using the usual playbook).

He urges the Salafists to be patient, to start up television channels and other media, and warns that "Secularists still control the economy, the media and the administration ... the army and police also are not secured," which seemed to many secularists to imply that he wants to see Islamists take over traditionally non-partisan state institutions.

The video comes as Ghannouchi prepares to step aside from the leadership of the party, and just after Larbi Sadiki had written a "Ghannouchi for President?" op-ed for Al Jazeera.

Now that the Arab World has real competitive politics, its new politicians need to learn what the rest of the world's politicians keep learning: you're always speaking on the record in the age of the smartphone.

Here's the whole video in Arabic:

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