Turkey could be a role model due to the many similarities between the country, a model that combines Islam with modernity, and Tunisia, Tunisian leader Rashid al-Ghannushi suggested at Friday session of a workshop where intellectuals from various countries gathered to discuss the latest developments of Arab Spring in İstanbul.
“I dream of a free, democratic, peaceful Tunisia, a country that can protect its developing identity,” the leader of Tunisian Al-Nahda movement, Ghannushi told Today’s Zaman on Friday. Having returned to Tunisia in June after a 22 year-long period in exile, Ghannushi expressed his feeling that the Arab Spring was a major step that drew Tunisia closer to the democratic image he had in mind.
“Now it is time to do something for Tunisia, and there is obligation to emerge prosperous out of the phase,” Ghannushi said and added “it necessitates us to respect different opinions, and choices, even if they do not match with ours.” He also elaborated on the common grounds between Turkey and Tunisia, and commented that Turkey could be a role model for the country as it is “a model very close to what Tunisia wants to be, a model that merges Islam with modernity.”
In response to fears from the West that Islamic Sheria law might be introduced in Tunisia if Islam gets stronger, Ghannushi explained that “all people are equal in front of laws in Tunisia, and we want women to be in parliament.” Ghannushi also noted that he would not run for presidency in the Tunisian elections on Oct.23, on grounds that the revolution emerged out of the youth, and “the next Tunisian leader should be one of them.”
Throughout the two-day workshop that kicked off on Thursday under joint chairmanship of the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Office of Public Diplomacy and the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU) at Georgetown University, intellectuals from dozens of countries all over the world joined discussions to evaluate the developments of the Arab Spring, which has rocked dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa since the beginning of 2011.
On the first day of the workshop on Thursday, Public Diplomacy Coordinator İbrahim Kalın and CMCU founding director John L. Esposito delivered speeches, after which Kalin noted that a new page was turned in the Arab world and that following public revolutions destroyed myths about Arabs in the minds of people.
The workshop was organized with the aim of identifying the difficulties ahead of Arab Spring nations on their transition to democracy, a road deemed painful and difficult due to political and economic issues, social inequality, lack of education and many other problems that are awaiting solutions.