Tunisia's Ennahda moves to accept state authority over religious affairs

Karem Yehia in Tunisia , Saturday 26 Mar 2016

In a move widely seen as toning down ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Tunisia's Ennahda Party says it will accept state authority over religion and focus on political activities

Rached Ghannouchi
File photo: Rached Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's main Islamist Ennahda party, gives a speech during a meeting in Tunis September 23, 2014. (Reuters)

The Islamist Ennahda Party will make a separation between its religious and political activities and accept state authority over handling state affairs, a leading Ennahda figure told Tunisia's Al-Sharouq newspaper.

Fathi Al-Ayadi — speaking ahead of this summer's party conference — said that Ennahda will focus on its political activities within an Islamic frame of reference, in accordance with the Tunisian constitution.

Al-Ayadi noted that religious affairs should be handled by state authorities and civil society, a statement that reflects Ennahda's refusal of partisan interference in such issues.

Al-Ayadi, head of Ennahda's Shura Council, said that preliminary meetings for the Ennahda conference resulted in a general consensus on amending the Islamist group's organisational affairs and charter.

One of these amendments includes the suggestion of changing the name of the party's Shura Council to "National Shura Council."

The statements of Al-Ayadi are seen as part of the "Tunisisation" of Ennahda, ending its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and teh combination of religion and politics.

Representing unprecedented steps by the Islamist party, many Ennahda leaders issued positive statements about ex-President Habib Bourguiba and celebrated the 60th anniversary of Tunisia's independence, 20 March.

Ennahda — amid the failed attempts by the Islamic State (IS) group to establish an emirate for itself in Ben Gardane earlier this month — was blamed recently for the rise of militancy in the country, in opening public space for Islamist extremists when the party was in power in the last few years.

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