Last week, my colleague Ed Husain and I hosted a meeting with Rached Ghannouchi—the cofounder and president of Tunisia’s Islamist Nahda party—at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. The audio is available here.
In January 2011, after more than twenty years in exile, Ghannouchi returned to Tunisia to lead Nahda’s revolutionary rise. Nahda went on to win some 40 percent of seats in Tunisia’s transitional parliament. Ghannouchi–who speaks passionately about the compatibility of Islam, democracy, and modernity–is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading Islamic thinkers. At CFR, his comments focused on his efforts to end Tunisia’s more than half century of political polarization by forging a coalition between moderate Islamists and secularists; the economic challenges facing the country’s transition, particularly with respect to stubbornly high unemployment; his hopes that Tunisia, as the first true Arab democracy, will serve as a model for other Muslim-majority countries; and the threat to freedom and democracy posed by violent extremism in Tunisia.