Tunisian press slams Egyptian cleric's 'infidel' election comments

Karem Yehia in Tunisia, Sunday 2 Nov 2014

Tunisians are angered by recent comments made by Islamist preacher Wagdi Ghoneim about the country's parliamentary elections

wagdi ghoneim
Egyptian preacher Wagdi Ghoneim (Photo: Ahram)

Egyptian Islamist preacher Wagdi Ghoneim has sparked anger among Tunisians after describing their recent parliamentary elections as "nonsense."

Ghoneim also described the winners of the elections as "infidels", saying the Islamist party Ennahda "sacrificed Islam for democracy" as its leader Rachid Al-Ghannouchi congratulated Beji Caid Essebsi, head of the winning party Nidaa, last Sunday.

Ghoneim is an oustpoken Islamist preacher and an ardent loyalist of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that the post-Morsi authorities have banned.

In Egypt, he faces charges of inciting violence following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.

He has been living in Qatar for several years. In September, as per Doha's orders, he moved to Turkey along with a number of other leading Brotherhood members who had been residing in Qatar. 

Ennahda spokesman Ziyad Al-Azari told Al-Ahram that his party "does not have any comments on such statements", adding that they are committed to "accepting the rules of democracy and respecting the election results."

Local daily newspaper Al-Maghrib daily newspaper however published an article on Ghoneim on Thursday titled "Pro-Brotherhood, pro-female circumcision preacher accuses Tunisians of blasphemy."

The paper noted that Ghoneim mentioned the word "infidels" and its derivatives (in Arabic) 29 times in less than 20 minutes during his comments. It also said that Ghoneim "approved of female circumcision, incited the killing of Egyptian soldiers, and after coming to Tunisia's generous land he talked about its people as if they do not uphold any morals or principles, and likened them to cats and dogs."  

According to the article, Ghoneim faces legal prosecution in Tunisia over accusations of preaching in its mosques without a license in 2012. If convicted, he could spend up to six months in prison. He also faces accusations of ridiculing the Tunisian national anthem.

State-owned daily Al-Sabah said that Ghoneim used libelous terms to describe civil secular groups. 

Essebsi has chosen Monastir city, hometown of first president of the Tunisian republic Habib Bourguiba, to launch his campaign for presidential elections on Sunday, among 27 other candidates.

The presidential elections are expected to be held on 23 November.

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