The removal of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda Party from power has been welcomed not only by Tunisians, but by many Arabs who have accused the Islamists, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood organization, of spreading chaos and instability in the Arab world. Pictured: Supporters of Tunisian President Kais Saied demonstrate in support of his removal of the Ennahda Party from power, near the parliament in Tunis, on July 26, 2021. (Photo by Fethi Belaid/AFP via Getty Images)
The removal of Tunisia's Islamist Ennahda [Renaissance] Party from power has been welcomed not only by Tunisians, but by many Arabs who have accused the Islamists, specifically the Muslim Brotherhood organization, of spreading chaos and instability in the Arab world.
The Ennahda Party was inspired by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the ideology of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
The crisis in Tunisia erupted on July 25 after President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspended the activities of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, whose speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, is the leader of the Ennahda Party. The decisions of the president were made in response to a series of protests against the Ennahda Party, economic hardship and spike in COVID-19 cases in Tunisia.
Tunisia is the third Arab country after Egypt and Sudan to say that it is fed up with the rule of the Islamists. With the exception of Qatar, most of the Arab countries have long regarded the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups as a major threat to security, stability and peace.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, seem to be the only Arabs who continue to believe in the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates, particularly Hamas, the terrorist group that has been ruling the Gaza Strip since July 2007.
A majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary election. Recent public opinion polls showed that many Palestinians continue to support Hamas despite its repressive and failed policies and measures in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians, unfortunately, have not learned anything from the bad experience of the Egyptians and Tunisians with the Muslim Brotherhood.
By ridding themselves of the Islamists, the Egyptians, Tunisians and Sudanese were saying that they wanted to move on with their lives and secure a better future for their countries and their children. By sticking to Hamas, the Palestinians are saying that they have no intention of improving their living conditions by creating job opportunities and a strong economy.
"What happened in Tunisia was the inevitable result of years during which the Tunisian people remained under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood," commented Emirati writer Saif Al-Dareei. "This Muslim Brotherhood rule, represented by the Tunisian Ennahda Party and its leader Rashed Ghannouchi, tried to reap political gains on its own without considering the needs of the Tunisian people."
Al-Dareei pointed out that the Tunisians, like the Egyptians, have "revolted against the same obsessive policies" of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose followers support chaos in the Arab world. "The era of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood is over," Al-Dareei wrote.
"There is a popular will to remove the Ennahda Party, which infiltrated power under a false cover of democracy, rights and the constitution, and was planning to remove the president and neutralize his powers."
Al-Dareei called for a "united and strong Arab stand to support Tunisia, its president, and its people." This support, he noted, "has already been demonstrated by many Arab countries, whether by not interfering in Tunisia's affairs, or by supporting the Tunisian leadership to reform the conditions of Tunisians and their right to a decent and secure life."
Prominent Saudi journalist and writer Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed stated that he was not surprised by the downfall of the Islamists in Tunisia. "They [the Islamists] were associated with chaos and assassinations once they were in government," Al-Rashed wrote.
"The extraordinary measures the president took came to rescue the country before the collapse. In fact, what he is doing is saving the Tunisian regime, and Tunisia, the country, from the chaos that had begun."
Al-Rashed said that what happened in Tunisia reflected the "battle of the Middle East" against the Muslim Brotherhood. Noting that Egypt and Sudan got rid of the Islamist rulers in 2013 and 2019 respectively, he pointed out that in Tunisia it took longer to oust "the religious group that has a fascist political project."
Sawsan Al-Sha'er, one of Bahrain's most influential journalists and intellectuals, expressed relief over the ouster of the Islamists of Tunisia and said that this should serve as a reminder to all Arabs that Islamist parties – Shiite and Sunni alike – care about nothing else but reaching power.
"All these parties work for the same purpose: to dismantle the state so as to pave the way for the incorporation of the people to the [Muslim] nation," Al-Sha'er argued.
"The Arabs have discovered that these parties do not have a state project, a development program, or a future vision; the only project they have is to reach a position of decision-making and seize power. The religious parties do not recognize sovereign borders, the state's constitution, laws, and regulations. In all the Arab countries in which these parties have reached decision-making positions, they bypassed all constitutional and political frameworks, and they do not see anything wrong with that because they belong to a [Muslim] nation, and not to a state."
According to Al-Sha'er, the Islamists want to strip the Arab states not only of their national identities, but also make them subject to foreign powers, especially Iran.
"Tunisia shook off the dust of the Muslim Brotherhood and put an end to their control, preventing chaos and turmoil in their country," remarked Amal Abdullah Al-Haddabi, a writer from the United Arab Emirates. "Tunisians, like other Arabs, have suffered a great deal under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Al-Haddabi pointed out that during the past decade, successive Tunisian governments that were dominated by the Islamists failed to score any achievements for the people:
"On the contrary, the country witnessed a continuous decline at all levels, and entered into an unprecedented crisis that reached its climax during the past two years with the failure to confront the Covid-19 pandemic, which frustrated the Tunisians... On the economic level, the unemployment rate rose to about 18%, according to official statistics, and the Tunisian economy contracted in 2020 by 9%, at a time when the governments under the control of the Ennahda Party were unable to address any of the real problems."
On the political level, she added, the Islamists engaged in endless and futile disputes with political parties and state institutions in order to retain control over the government, "plunging Tunisia into continuous political crises throughout the past 10 years."
According to Al-Haddabi, the Tunisian president was forced to step in when he realized that the country was on the path of chaos and destruction under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood.
"He took these steps to save his country and its people from the grip of the Muslim Brotherhood, their schemes and their dark policies," she emphasized.
"What happened in Tunisia is similar to what happened in Egypt in 2013, when the Egyptian people rose up against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and overthrew them after discovering their subversive project, confirming once again the failure of the Islamists in managing the affairs of the state. What happened in Tunisia is very important, although it is long overdue. It will of course have important effects on the entire Muslim Brotherhood movement in the Arab region, because it confirms that the Arabs can no longer tolerate this group and its policies."
Saudi writer and journalist Abdel Aziz Khamis expressed hope that what happened in Tunisia would spread to other Arab countries. Urging Arabs to learn from the failed experience of the Islamists in Tunisia, Khamis listed a number of reasons why the Ennahda party failed:
"Ennahda failed to offer alternative programs to those adopted by [deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abdinie] Ben Ali, against whom the people revolted in December 2010... It failed because it was not able to find real solutions to Tunisia's problems and because it was not concerned with serving the people or improving their living conditions."
Khamis said that the Ennahda Party also failed because it was unable to transform itself into a political party "in the modern sense of the word." The party, he added, "was not able to leave the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood."
Another reason the Tunisian Islamists failed, Khamis wrote, was because they "failed to believe in democracy in its true meaning, including freedom of the media, the independence of the judiciary and economic and social rights."
The Islamists, he said, "were living in a dangerous state of denial and condescension to reality, and that is another manifestation of failure." Khamis also pointed out that some of the terrorist attacks and assassinations in Tunisia were carried out by groups affiliated with the Ennahdah Party.
Evidently, many Arabs are pleased that the rule of the Islamists in Tunisia has finally come to an end. The jubilation in the Arab countries over the toppling of the Ennahdah Party sends a clear message to the rest of the world against embracing or appeasing the Islamists. Sadly, this is a message that continues to be ignored by the many Palestinians and leaders in the West who continue to support Hamas and other Iranian-backed Islamist groups that seek to eliminate Israel and keep the Palestinians mired in misery.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.