Muslim world needs self-analysis, says ‘Muslim democrat’ Ghannouchi

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KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims need to ponder on the host of problems and conflicts now plaguing them around the world and seek out their solutions, says Rached Ghannouchi, the Tunisian leader who heads the Islamist Ennahda party.

Ghannouchi, often viewed as a “Muslim democrat”, said the self-analysis was most necessary, especially in determining the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Muslim world.

Universities could play a role in contributing to resolving the problems faced by Muslims, he said in his address at a special convocation at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) where he was conferred an honorary doctorate today.

His speech, in Arabic, was summarised in English by lecturer Ahmad el-Muhammadi.

Ghannouchi also said the world today saw moderates and extremists living together and that the culture clash in the Muslim world were between moderate Muslims and those at the other end of the spectrum.

He said present day Muslims must continue to uphold the Islamic intellectual tradition by past Muslim reformists such as Rashid Ridha, Jamaluddin Al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh.

“In the past, Islam was seen as a leading world religion but the role Muslims play today has eroded.

“We must reclaim the past status, not by purely copying the West but by innovating our traditions,” he said.

The Ennahda party was closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a movement that had recently come under attack from Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Ghannouchi was jailed several times by the previous regime in Tunisia, forcing him to eventually seek political asylum in Britain in 1987.

In 2011, after the Ben Ali regime was toppled in a revolution that sparked the “Arab Spring” uprisings in many Arab countries, Ennahda played a major role in establishing democracy in Tunisia.

Ghannouchi dismissed the notion that the Arab world was not ready to embrace democracy.

“The Arab world is ready. Democracy can survive in the Islamic world. Tunisia has proven it,” he said.

He conceded that extreme elements were present in his country but he said his people had chosen democracy and had succeeded in practising it without marginalising anyone.

“Tunisians are showing the way for the Arab world,” he added.