Ghannoushi, Rashid Al- (1941– )

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Rashid al-Ghannoushi is a prominent Islamic thinker and political activist. Born in 1941 into a religious family in rural Tunisia, Ghannoushi received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Damascus University in 1968. After a year in Paris, he returned to Tunisia to teach philosophy at a secondary school. A former member of the Tablighi Jama˓at and a Qur˒anic study group, he founded the Islamic Tendency Movement (harakat al-ittijah al-islami) in 1981, which later formed the Renaissance Party (hizb al-nahda, or Ennahda). Ghannoushi was first arrested in 1981, released in 1984, rearrested and sentenced for life in 1987, but amnestied in 1988. Shortly thereafter he left for exile in London. While his role in the Islamic opposition movement within Tunisia remains controversial, his stature as an eminent representative of modern Sunni Arab Islamic thought is largely undisputed. In a series of books, articles, lectures, and interviews he presented his aim to make Islam relevant for modern society, notably for the young, by integrating key concepts of modern sociopolitical thought such as good governance, human rights, social justice, freedom, pluralism, and equality into an Islamic framework, insisting on general norms and values rather than conventional understandings of Islamic law and theology, which he considered to be largely irrelevant to present realities.

See alsoPolitical Islam .


Hermassi, Abdelbaki. "The Rise and Fall of the Islamist Movement in Tunisia." In The Islamist Dilemma. The Political Role of Islamist Movements in the Contemporary Arab World. Edited by Laura Guazzone. Reading, N.Y.: Ithaca Press, 1995.

Tamimi, Azzam. Rachid Ghannouchi: A Democrat Within Islamism. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2001

Gudrun Krämer