Our Aim Is to Immunize Society against Despotism Regardless of the Veil with Which It Covers Itself
Our Aim Is to Immunize Society against Despotism Regardless of the Veil with Which It Covers Itself
Wednesday, July 12,2006 00:00
By Aqlam Online, translated by Ikhwanweb

In a dialogue exclusively held by , Mr. Hamadi Al-Jibali, the former political prisoner and the prominent leader in Al-Nahda movement in Tunisia, considered the lack of freedom to be the pivotal problem for our lands and he emphasized that the institutions of the civil society can never prove active or efficient unless they worked under the umbrella of freedom. Moreover, he explained that it is these institutions that defend the society which has to be immunized against despotism no matter whether the ruler is a Muslim or Non-Muslim.




With regard to the conditions that surrounded his imprisonment along with other members of the movement, Al-Jibaly, president of "Al-Fajr" the Tunisian magazine that was banned more than 15 years ago, stated that the issue of isolation is one of the most conspicuous problems that throw their complications over the relationship between the authority and the Islamist prisoners. Furthermore, the status inside the prisons is still bound by the political background that denies the prisoners any right to political participation and classifies them as the prisoners of public rights crimes. Prison, has actually left a chronic abnormalities on a number of his comrades that are not cured by any superficial improvements to the services provided inside the walls of the prisons.




The former president of Al-Nahda movement explained that the release of the political prisoners and the process of providing them access to the least of their rights; the rights of locomotion, work and secure life inside their families, their homes and in streets, are the minimum rights that should be guaranteed before talking about any political detente, he added.




In a reply to the plea that the authorities reserve the right to refuse to grant recognition to this movement on the ground that it conceals its aims under religion, Al-Jibali asserted that this movement had never appointed itself as a representative of Islam or as its spokesman, although it takes it as the source for its political and cultural concepts. This is in similarity to the case of other political parties, which resort to diverse intellectual backgrounds in their political concepts. He also added that the concept of the religious party is a vague one that is usually used by authorities to eliminate such powerful opponents.




However, Al-Jibali concluded his dialogue to "Aqlam Online Magazine", with an invitation to the authority and to people in general, asking them to work together to get over the crisis the country faces. He, moreover, asserted that Tunisia welcomes all and sundry. Therefore, it is important to cooperate to surmount the remains of the past and seek a better future, as stated in the following dialogue:




The dialogue is held by Ahmad Qal’ul




v             Mr. Hamadi Al-Jibali, first of all I would like to congratulate you for being released from prison and welcome to you in "Aqlam Online Magazine".




Thanks for your concern and for the spirit you show towards the issue of prisoners in particular and the issue of liberties in general.




v             Mr. Al-Jibali, if we turned back to the period of your imprisonment, would you please give us an idea about the circumstances and causes that led to your detainment?




Actually, I was not detained but one day I had to appear before the Military Court with a charge of publishing an article in "Al-Fajr Magazine" by Mr. Muhammad An-Nury and carrying the title, "The military court is non constitutional and has to be dissolved". During this period, I have been charged with slandering a judicial institution for which I had been sentenced to a one-year imprisonment. During this year, I have been convicted of conspiracy to subvert the government. Therefore, I was not detained because I have been already within the walls of the prison.




v             Do you mean that you have been kept in prison due to the trial stood by the members of the movement that took place in the same court which issued the decision of your imprisonment for the article you issued?




Actually, this is not true, because this trial was definitely independent from the grave one that subsequently took place and sentenced almost all the members of the movement to detainment. However, other charges have been brought against me during my imprisonment so I had to face fifteen years imprisonment in addition to another year for what is called "alliance with banned groups". Thus, I have been sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment in addition to the eighteenth month I spent in prison for the crime of slander in my capacity as a president of "Al-Fajr Magazine".




v             How many years did you remain in prison?




The overall number of the years I had to spend in prison was 17 years and 6 month long of which I spent 15 years and 4 month.




v             You have staged a number of hunger strikes during your imprisonment, would you please tell us about the aims behind such strikes?




Actually, several reasons were responsible for these strikes; some were related to the living conditions inside the prison and especially the solitary imprisonment, which was initially unbearable. In addition, I staged some strikes against the break, food, health conditions, newspapers and media. These strikes led to the improvement of such services inside the prison.




v             Would you please tell us, with all the specifics, what were the circumstances that forced you to stage these strikes?




Solitary isolation was a grievous problem in itself for it is impossible for a person to live in one square meter’s cell for years. Nevertheless, I had to remain there for 11 months which were initially unbearable due to the time of the break that was only half an hour long and the kind of food and visitation, even the system of guardianship which was extremely tough. Moreover, they were watching over us from roofs of buildings. On top of that, I was not permitted to meet none and none was allowed to meet me and even I was not permitted to go on a walk with any other prisoner. Indeed, the solitary imprisonment is a kind of pressure that runs against the simplest rights of prisoners but even the law does not approve it and affirms that the solitary imprisonment is decreed by judicial decision and comes mostly when the person is suspended, not facing a final decree. However, the court might decide to confine the person on the ground of different reasons other than those of the investigation, but it is not too long until this status is replaced with the ordinary one where the prisoner has the right to spend time with other prisoners. The law also stipulates that the position of whoever faces a solitary imprisonment has to be changed after 6 months in jail.




v             In your case, did this period continue for 11 consecutive years?




Actually, it was somehow sub-consecutive for it was only interrupted by few months.




v                   Some claims raised by the authority states that it was obliged to put some prisoners, detained for political reasons, in solitary imprisonment on their request and perhaps you was one of those who wanted to be isolated form other prisoners especially those charged with the violation of public rights, so is it true that you requested it?




Actually, none would ask for solitary imprisonment save one or two persons who did requested that kind of imprisonment but for reasons we do not know for certain. Therefore, if it happened that a political prisoner was to be put in the cell of the public rights violator, knowing that there is a great gab between the two charges, he might be impelled to ask for solitary imprisonment. However, it was demanded that a joint cell be assigned for those charged with the same crime and be isolated from those charged with the violation of the public rights for reasons known to all. Mixing with the prisoners of public rights can take place but the desired aim was to bring each group in a joint cell especially when we know that the prison is separated into divisions; there is the juvenile cells, check prisoners, big crimes prisoners and so on. Accordingly, we requested that the classification goes according to the charges and unfortunately, our request was refused. Indeed, I usually request meeting with my comrades and still remember that during the Lesser Bairam in Safaqis jail we requested to meet each other even for one minute but our request was refused.




v                   The authority insists on not describing you as political prisoners and finally it expressed regret at the situation of the American ministry of foreign affairs, which described us political prisoners. The authority still considers you as prisoners of public rights and that it has no political prisoners inside its prisons. So how do you see this situation?




Certainly, the authority still claims that it has no political prisoners inside its prisons. Whenever we requested the administration of the prison to classify us as prisoners of public rights and hence granting us the rights of those prisoners or as prisoners of an opinion, they would answer that we are prisoners of "alliance with banned groups" and sometimes prisoners of special orientation. Thereupon I asked them to give us more explanation to this special orientation and what are the consequences of that assignment and if it means a complete denial of our rights or not.




v                   Thanks Allah, you are out of the prison now so what circumstances are your comrades facing there and how do you see their position? Is it still intolerable or has it witnessed some ameliorations as you mentioned earlier?




The ameliorations it has witnessed are only superficial, for example, we have been kept in individual solitary cells and turned to live in collective solitary ones so it is always the same. For instance, we have not been permitted to meet anyone outside our group in Al-Mahdia prison and have not been allowed to communicate with others, as the visiting place was isolated from the rest of prisoners. Moreover, our services were assigned to a special group of attendants even the ordinary services were entitled to this group. Whenever I was summoned to a meeting with a visitor, all corridors were cleared out from people in order to keep me away from anybody. Such treatment is still going on, but to speak the truth, some superficial ameliorations have been made to the prison as they equipped cells with beds, provided better water closets, added mirrors to cells, tiled them, provided them with TV in 2003 or 2005 and allotted more time for the break.




In addition, we requested more newspapers but the respond we received was only superficial as "Al-Sabah Newspaper" was occasionally allowed to us but it was usually banned if it contains any thing related to our issue but they, however, have allowed "Al-Sareeh Magazine" and "Akhbar Al-Jomhuria" which have not been allowed before but they were occasionally banned. Also the prisoners’ meals turned better than ever especially after the visit of the Red Cross. Although there have been some ameliorations, the nature and political background of the issue is still clear, i.e., isolation policy is still dominant as prisoners are not allowed to meet each other, but on the other hand, their financial circumstances have witnessed a remarkable development.




v       Just in order to be more obvious I need to say that you have been summoned recently along with a number of your comrades involved in the same case but who are these comrades and what is the connotation this decision carries?




Actually, this was a year ago. However, the group which accompanied me before my release consists of Bu Wary Makhlouf, Al-Hadi Al-Ghali, `Abd Al-Hamid Al-Jilasi and Muhammad Salih Qasuma.




v       How is there health state?




Their health state is fine due to the development in health services. So if, for instance, we asked for the physician, he would come immediately and sometimes we may be led to the hospital and get physical examination of the specialists. In addition, medications were available more than ever but it is, unfortunately, due to the long period they spent inside the prison, some comrades had some chronic diseases. Among them were, Muhammad Salih Qasuma who fell a prey to rheumatism that it was difficult for him to keep standing or sitting for a long time, even he cannot afford performing prayer as it affects him badly. Also Bu Wary Makhlouf suffered the lumbago while `Abd Al-Hamid Al-Jilasi lost nine or ten molars and Al-Hadi Al-Ghali as well. Most of my comrades have suffered severe health defects although medication was available but these diseases, however, became chronic. In spite of that, it is important to emphasize that the current way of dealing with health problems is more effective than ever.




v       Has the period you spent in prison left some health defects on you?




Actually I did not experience such decaying state, thanks Allah, for I have been making periodical check ups and fortunately I have been a bit little lucky with regard to my health state when compared to the others.




v       Now after you have been released, what do you think of that decision? Is it, truly an individual case? Or is it, as authority claims, a way for solving some human stances? Or could such decision be taken as a political step towards solving that problem?




Authorities still insist that this issue has nothing to do with politics and consequently, the decision to set me free was not taken within the framework of a political improvement. Rather, it was taken for human reasons or as a way to deal with some of the prisoners of the public right. The truth, however, is known to every body as it was mainly a political issue even if it is to be described as terrorism or extremism. But it is certainly a political issue. Even those who confer such names and classifications on it are certainly aware of the fact that it definitely has a political background. In addition, Minster of Justice has referred, in a press conference held a year or less ago, to a group arrested for intellectual and political reasons.




Actually, I know the reason behind the authority’s refusal to declare that their prisons are teaming with political prisoners. This is because it would demand a political treatment from the side of the authorities, if it did so, the matter that it totally refuses. This, however, leads us to state that there are various reasons behind the decision of the release and these reasons are known to all. Among these reasons is that the issue took them along time and overburdened every body. It had extremely bad social and financial consequences on the families and their relatives inside the prison. Moreover, it overburdened the country itself and affected its image both on the internal and external level as this issue turned to be an issue of public opinion that was tackled in all conferences and meetings and I think it is time to put an end to such issue.




v       What are the possible ways for putting an end to that issue? And what are the procedures that authorities are recommended to take in such process?




By the very nature of the case, putting an end to such issue begins with the process of setting all political prisoners free with no exception and as soon as possible. Indeed such is one of the demands of all national and international political powers. They, all, agree that there are a number of political prisoners that should be released first and granted even the least of their rights. They do not call for a mere release of them but a complete release in the full sense of the word and grant them full liberty to locomotion, work, live and enjoy secure life inside their families, houses and streets, etc.




v       Does this mean that you are still denied some of these rights in your locomotion and contacts, even after your release?




Actually, I did not experience any kind of harassment until now but there are some guards encamping 20 or 30 meters away from my house. There might be one or two cars or one person following me in my moves even when I go out for some of my familial affairs, etc. But this did not lead me intensely mad as I was in 1988 and 1989, when there was a car following me and always asking for the ID card of whoever enters my house. Such procedures, however, are relatively less than ever, (i.e., mean until this moment). Nevertheless, there is some kind of watch, which they consider normal, but it is still watch. Worth mentioning is that the watch over my house or guests has been ended.




v       Apart from the release of the prisoners, how do you see the possibility of achieving even a partial political detente?




The official statements issued with respect to the issue of the prisoners reflect the fact that the authority still considers them as prisoners of the public right who have been included in the release decision of the prisoners of the public right and therefore, their issue will not be dealt with on political basis. The authority claims that these prisoners are but ordinary citizens who have been set free and are lead a life of the ordinary people. But what does this word, (i.e., ordinary citizen) mean? Does it mean that they have political rights? Does it mean that they can practice politics as a right granted by the constitution? This is actually not clear. However, until this moment, the political treatment of this issue is not obvious. According to my knowledge, there is a former security treatment, which is still going on, but perhaps in varying degrees. But till this moment and perhaps due to the short span of my release, I did not fully comprehend how things is going but still I feel it because this issue is no more than a public right as stated by the authority.




v       In its reply to the statement issued by Al-Nahda movement in the 24th anniversary of the declaration of the establishment of the Islamic movement last summer, the authority said that it refuses to deal with parties that conceal their motives under religion. Accordingly, this leads me to say that the movement for which you have been afflicted with imprisonment is described as a religious movement or a religious party that has no place in the constitution. Therefore, do not you think that the movement should have adapted itself to the law of the country before it pursues its right to participate in politics as a political party?




The most astonishing part of the story is that our participation in the dialogue held in 1989 on the national covenant and the way such movement could deal with other political parties was one of the demands of the authority which informed us of the necessity of changing our title and take off the Islamic trait. However, there arose an intense argument inside the movement and at the end, the whole members were convinced that it is not a big deal to change their name as they are not only concerned with politics but also they do not represent Islam or talk on behalf of Muslims.




Moreover, we are not the guardians of Islam, as this religion is fully known to all and need not a guardian or a representative. We are only a political party, just like any other party, enjoying certain rights and obliged to fulfill certain duties included in the constitution and the laws of the country, which run in conformity with the constitution. Moreover, we, as other parties, abide by the same laws preached by these laws and to the letter and spirit of that constitution. Therefore, we introduced a request, in this respect, to the ministry of Interior but they refused even to receive it but they accepted the newspaper’s request and refused to receive the political party’s request which primarily indicated that the movement does not have full right to speak on behalf of Islam and that it accuses none of infidelity or gives indulgence covenants (partial omission of punishment). Rather it is only a political party that is based on civilizational and Islamic teachings that derive their intellectual and political concepts from the Islamic heritage. Moreover, it has a certain concept towards Islam which it definitely knows that it is not the only concept that has to be followed. In addition, it adopts a special attitude towards intellectual and Islamic issues and it is not an exceptional stance.




Furthermore, we do not claim the right of infallibility or that we have the absolute truth. Rather, we believe that every thing in life is proportionate and that there are definitely known duties in religion as there is also specific Ijtihad[1] and we belong to a specific school of Ijtihad which is certainly one of our rights.




Al-Nahda movement is known for the concept it adopts which goes in conformity with the social changes. Therefore, it is not logical to consider it a religious movement. Also, the exact meaning of such nomination is not given and it is thus demanding to know the precise definition of the religious movement in order to decide whether this is a religious movement or not. Therefore, if someone affiliated to democracy and used to express his opinion on issues of democracy, we also have the same right to express our opinion, as a movement with Islamic dimensions. Moreover, it is to be stated that the Islamic movements are now dominating the whole Islamic and Arab world.




However, as to the condition included in the constitution that states that there is no place for religious movements or parties appointing themselves as representatives of religion. Therefore, it is not reasonable to say that we represent Islam. So as to the religious dimensions of our movement, does it mean that if some members of this movement observed the religious duties and performed prayers and worshiped Allah, they would not be permitted to form a political party? What should such members do in fact? Are they expected to abstain from practicing their religious rites, their religious duties or should they conceal their Islam?




This is actually a mysterious thing. I admit that the opposite partner has to be more clear and explain how the movement is described, a religious or non-religious one. Here I should refer to the socialist democratic movement, which though adopts Islamic and Arabic dimensions; it has the recognition of the state. This leads us to pose this question; is there any difference between the concept of that movement and ours? Have we ever said that we speak on behalf of Islam or even we speak with others or that we represent Islam and others do not? Who said so! Give us only one quotation from our writings or statements that refer to such sayings. When did we accuse society, a faction or a party with infidelity?




Several meetings have actually brought us together with the socialist party and with others with whom we used to work together. So if the socialist party does not belong to Islam or if it only has a special concept of it, this will lead us to say that this is its own right. This is in comparison to the ruling party itself (i.e., the constitutional democratic assembly party) which holds sessions and religious lectures and convenes with the imams and moreover, encourages certain religious activities inside mosques and other places as well. Thus, such situation is not clear and there is a big misconception.




However, it is a different thing if authority adopts that decision to eliminate a powerful political opponent or a political rival. Indeed our purpose is to state that we have never claimed that we stand as representatives of Islam or talk on behalf of Muslims or that this trait is ours to the exclusion of others and consequently we can accuse any body of infidelity, forbid the activities of other parties or call all people to ally with Islamic movement. Rather we have the right to express our opinion as others do and we adopt certain situations and do respect them and deal with them pragmatically. Therefore, it is not correct to be described as a religious party.




v       Tunisian Political parties have different visions, attitudes, and relations in respect of the Islamic movement. At least, there are two main parties: the first expresses readiness to talk and treat with the Islamic movement. The other is still seeing the Islamic movement a dictatorial project due to the religious background of the Islamic movement that classifies people according to their belief into believers and non-believers that lead to the exclusion of a large part of the society. According to the view of the later party, the Islamists represent a totalitarian project that omen bad dictatorship that surpasses the current one. Therefore, their priority is to work on avoiding the coming despotism. At the same time, they try to coexist with actual regime that provides an amount of the social freedom at least.




Actually what you have said is admittedly true regarding this view. However, what are grounds on which they depend in their treatment with any party, not only Al-Nahda movement? Have they based their opinion on the literature they examined or the practices of other movements that belong to the same intellectual background? I want to emphasize the fact that all the political parties know us well, we used to hold meetings and discussions with them as well as we used to issue mutual statements.




After the occurrences of detention, there were two divisions; one that backs the movement and the other refuses it. However, what are the reasons and foundations for those who refuse the existence of the movement? Do they believe that this is a religious radical movement that denounces democracy and denies it? However, they have no evidence to prove this claim. They only allege that we will be like Taliban movement or other similar movements in other countries. Thus they judge, you will be like those, so it is necessary to prevent you!




How strange is this logic! Reflect upon this: "you are enemies of democracy, and then it is imperative to stamp you out before you destroy us. We have to prevent your access to rule. Since we have classified you "enemies of democracy" then the democratic process shall not include you." Indeed, this is a judgment in absentia. It is a judgment applied to intentions. Because you shall not be like that manner, we will prevent you! What are the basics for that logic? Who have authorized you with the right to prevent me? It is presupposed that only constitution is the foundation that allows or bans. Then let us apply the constitution who allows every group the right of meeting and activity. In case if any party violates limits set by constitution or law, there is a judicial authority that brings justice back and implement right as applied in all countries all over the world.




It is not your right to begin with a baseless premise: because you are enemies of democracy, I have to kill you. This is illogic and unreasonable. My answer to the political parties that raise up the banner of "enemies pf democracy" is why do you appoint your own selves judges in the name of society? You cannot be judges who allow this and ban that for you become then the foe and the judge.




When we state that there is a country of establishments and law, we mean that law must be justly and equally applied to all regarding rights and obligations. Law must be overall people. Whenever a party violates law, it has to receive the due punishment. All people must be equal in that.




The Islamic movement has expressed its support to free and direct voting and election, its support to authority exchange, and its sincere respect of the laws and the achievements of our home.




Currently, there are some claims or pretexts they pose. For example, if they came to rule, they will codify polygyny and abolish the marital status magazine. However, who accepts that? Why do we reject this magazine while it arises from the Islamic thought stemmed from the Shari`a? These are respected opinions and various views but such classifications and random claims are certainly damaging the political process.




v       This is concerning the political parties that are reluctant to accept the existence of an Islamic movement due to different reasons. As for the other parties that have no barrier from cooperating with Islamists; some of them think that the Islamic project constitutes a threat to some kinds of freedoms. There are also concerns and fears of the sweeping publicity that Islamists achieve as seen in different Arab and Muslim counties. Then there may not be any room for anther party. But, how to reply these fears!




First of all, let us have common ground; no party can reign alone to the exclusion of other party in the present time. This is true whether in Tunisia or other countries. The time when it was possible for one party to govern, regardless of its background whether Islamic, socialist, leftist, or rightist, has passed. There is no room for this form of rule among any community. No community accepts one-party rule. For communities have naturally and intrinsically multiple trends.




This kind of variety exists even in the political Islamic school that has different attitudes and views, not to mention other political schools. If the Islamists think that they can alone govern any country in the world, it will be a grave mistake and an ambient disaster. Community is now naturally multiple and has to be so to enrich the intellectual, political, and social life.




Moreover, this essential character will prevent any party from dictatorship. For the political rule that states the necessity for balanced authority is essential and vital for communities. It is not inevitable that the relations between the political authority and other authorities have to be violent and tense. Parallel existence of authorities is pouring in the welfare of the community to prevent dictatorship.




Indeed, dictatorship is a great corruption and loss of energies. When there is government and opposition, the ruling party will work hard to achieve its promises for the voters. For breaking promises means the loss of rule. Since other parties will take place to implement these promises through election. Then let all compete in this course.




Political competition is essential. As there is economical competition, there is also political one. However, competition differs from community to another. It is violent in the backward countries while peaceful in civilized ones, where it is implemented through polls and voting.




There is no room, then, today or tomorrow to the one-party rule. Unfortunately, the Arab regimes failed to understand this fact. Our communities are developing. They are undergoing a kind of political travail where different views and multiple attitudes exist. These different parties have not been legally enacted, however, they are existent. Notwithstanding, the Arab regimes insist on the one-party rule with normally different forms.




Sometimes there exists a kind of opposition that may be formal. However, the plain fact is that there is no deep and real political process based on an organized and independent opposition with responsible programs and dialogues that are legally, peacefully, and publicly existent. We see good examples in Turkey and Palestine; however, these remain only steps on the way. The way is considerably long, for it is connected with the awareness of communities as a whole not only the political regimes and their role in this process. This is our prospect in this regard.




v       This is on the level of principles but the reality and practice dictate that the party that governs through winning election with majority in parliament will legislate laws that suit its attitudes and views. Indeed, this is the real point that causes fears on the part of some national parties in Tunisia. They fear that some individual freedoms may be threatened, for the Islamists have a certain view regarding women, sex relationship, and social relations as a whole.




As a matter of fact, the party that will rule, whether Islamic or not, will reach to that through its programs, ideas, and suggestions that are proposed for voters. The voting process is essentially concerned with these matters. Then if a party breaks its promises and cancels its program, it turns against the majority that brings about its winning of authority. The result is not in its advantage, for it destroys it and damages the trust granted to it by voters. One may say, a ruling party can enact laws. In reply, I state that here are two things, we have to consider these communities aware communities that can differentiate between programs and carefully choose the best for them, or they are a shepherd!




I myself believe that communities have a deep awareness that enables them to realize facts and differentiate them well. If opportunity becomes available for these communities to practice this right, they will exercise their will. If these communities see that such a party broke its promises, they will turn against it. In addition to the laws, establishments, and constitution that represent fortresses for these communities.




On the other side, communities cannot be protected by security forces or practices. The press, justice, public opinion, and civil society are the powers that grantee the security of a community. These establishments alone, not police, security solutions, or political trials, can protect community. In consequence, whoever rules through democracy and turns back against it, sooner or later people will turn against him. If this party has the required majority and wants to change rules in contradiction to the interests of home, the whole matter will be against him. From another hand, the question is not the fear of the arrival of a certain party to rule lest it should turn back against us. The real question is who are you that turning will be against you, are you a political party, or are you the community? If you are a political party, you are like any other party. But, if you are talking in the name of the community, it is not your right for the party that gains rule only comes through the choice of community.




Moreover, it is also for the good of this party not to be averse to the traditions and laws of the community. Let us take the example cited by opponents of the Islamic movement that such a party (Al-Nahda movement) will legalize polygyny. However, has this suggestion ever proposed by Al-Nahda movement? You also claim that we will turn against freedoms. Do you think this is reasonable in face of the fact that we are the big victim of the absence of these freedoms?




Take for example, the phenomena of Hijab[2], how prevalent is it in Tunisia. After leaving prison, I observed that this phenomenon has spread. This great expansion was not in this manner before my imprisonment; you might see one of a thousand that was wearing Hijab. Now the majority is wearing it, even more than majority. When did this take place? This occurred while the movement is behind the walls of prison. Then, who convinced those people to observe the legal clothes or Hijab while the movement is in prison.




They ascribed this social phenomenon to the movement. I say to them, thanks. You have done us service. They also claimed, this is sectarian clothing and is a political symbol, i.e. every woman who observes the legal Hijab is considered a member of Al-Nahda movement and every man who performs prayer is a supporter of Al-Nahda, well we do not want any more!




It would better for them to differentiate between this phenomenon and the movement. This process is a part of the social and cultural movement with which people became convinced, to the extent that they observed the legal clothing and performed prayers.




It is necessary to differentiate and avoid confusion. Have we imposed Hijab on women or girls? Whoever claims that anywhere is driveling nonsense and baseless allegations. We did not impose this kind of behavior in on any person in our statements, deeds, houses, relatives, or communities. For example, I did not impose this kind of clothes on my wife or daughters. Being in prison, I never spoke to them regarding this matter. Likewise, I did not ask them to do so or protest against their coming to visit me without it. They observed it freely and willfully. Even my wife did not ask them to wear Hijab. I sincerely and truthfully assure this fact to you.




My daughters willfully wore Hijab, one of them observed it in the first year of university; the second followed her in the next year, then the third after two or three years. I myself did not ask them to do so. This is regarding the question of Hijab. The imposing question now: who is imposing a certain kind of clothes? Who fetters the freedom of clothes? Is Al-Nahda movement? He who criticizes Al-Nahda movement under the allegation that it imposes certain Hijab on women, why does he allow certain clothes and ban another one?




This is on the national level. If we come to the international level, do you think that what is called "the world order" will ever allow such kinds of totalitarian and radical regimes? It is a universal course exceeds the level of each country to the level of communities as a whole. In such course, there are opening channels for dialogue, information exchange, and great human organizations for the cause of defending human rights. Any regime that wants to keep away from this universal course of opening areas for individual and social freedoms including the human rights, child rights, and woman rights, will be excluded and isolated from the international community. Then it will soon or later collapse.




World is undergoing great change and alteration. We are driving towards an age where man will be the axis of each activity. The Islamic movement can by no means contradict this course. This course is not only an international one. I state also that it is a Godly course that Islam calls man for it. The mission of Islam came to liberate man from fetters, to make man willful being before his Lord, the Almighty, Who grants humankind reasoning to think and endowed them with freedom of will since the very moment of their existence.




Allah, the Almighty, willed to remove every limit that fetters human will. Thus, it is not for any Islamic movement to work against the Divine Will and the natural development of history. It is not for any movement to impose on its community certain disciplinary or totalitarian laws in the name of Islam. This is absolutely rejected and unreasonable.




v       You have already mentioned that among the measures that work as deterrents against dictatorship are the existence of free press, independence information, and civil society organizations. However, the Tunisian case shows that the components of civil society are weak. They have no real authority in the countries. This makes that any heir of rule can exercise dictatorship. In other words, the scales of powers are obviously unbalanced in favor of government against the interests of community. Do you think that the proper political demand in the present time is the exchange of a ruler with another or a ruling party with another one? In other words, where is the problem, is it in the ruling party or in the relationship between community and government, i.e. the fundamental priority now is to enhance and fortify community before thinking about authority and rule?




Indeed, this is really the political problem. It is the core of the whole issue, which we suffer now. We want to defend our society against dictatorship whether assumed by the Islamists rule or any other party. This is the goal. The community has to have certain establishments, public opinion, free press, independent judicial authority, and constitutional establishments. These establishments work as judges whose judgments are binding upon all. They also guard community from any kind of dictatorship, regardless of the ruling party whether it is Islamic or not. The question is to develop our society gradually to construct what is called "civil society organizations." But, how to achieve this goal?




First of all, the question now concerns the freedoms. The civil society organizations cannot activate their role unless freedom is guaranteed. But, for freedoms, including but not limited to freedom of organization, freedom of opinion, freedom and independence of judicial authority, civil society organizations cannot effectively work. These are the basic demands that all efforts must be concentrated on them. Both the opposition and the ruling party must seek these goals, for it is a guarantee for the ruling party in the first place.




When these establishments work independently and freely, they enhance the performance of the ruling party through the positive criticism and advice as an effective power in the community.




In the absence of these establishments, rule is based on security and community becomes wholly excluded. Unfortunately, this is what we see and observe in the Arab and Islamic communities. There is total exclusion and resignation for communities; it is not only political but social and cultural as well. It is a collective exclusion on the level of concern, initiative, and work, where man becomes prone to spend hours in coffee without work or duty. The reason is that he feels that there is reward or motivation for work. Notice that material motivation is not intended but the sense intended is to feel that you live freedom, breathe freedom, and able to take initiative without fear. To know that you have social values that makes you love work and activity, and abandon laziness and unemployment.




These are values that we badly lack. We wonder at the progress achieved by the Chinese and Japanese; why do they develop? The answer is "their devotion for work." If any of them becomes jobless, he soon seeks a work to live. While our youth are sufficient to have a dinar of their family to spend hours on coffees, smoking water pipe. Smoking is connected with unemployment.




Tell me, what do we teach our people? How do we bring them up? This issue is strongly integrated and complicated. For political work is not intended for itself. It is a functional work for the welfare of society, socially, culturally, materially, and economically. We have to free our selves from this consumptive inclination for swallowing goods and every thing. The depth of this question is not the political competition to reach certain position. This is not the goal; the goal is to develop our selves and communities to be a civilized society that lives upon one’s own work and resources. Moreover, developing our communities is essential to be able to compete with others in the same course. This cannot be obtained unless there is a proper sphere of freedom where all powers and activities are liberated for it their right to be free. Activity freedom on all levels starts with liberating the various freedoms. Are we now in no need for the press that criticizes, examines, and declares the truth without fear? In fact, we badly need this activity. But we witness no real active role. The press is fettered, where we only see and listen the phrases of praise and applauds everywhere.




What is really odd is the slogan like that raised in 6 Nov. when "La Presse Newspaper" highly praised Bourguiba and next morning in 7 Nov. it bitterly attacked him. This is a kind of the existent press. Another example is car obstacle. When orders issued against it, they all applause and praised this step turning against it and stressing the defects of this obstacle. It is regretful that this is our nature.




It should not be understood that we ask for attacking authority all the way. But, the reform process cannot be implemented through the media that flatter itself and deceive society. There must be the minimum of credibility. Indeed our communities have fallen into this state because they lost the ideal. Take another example, "bird flu." I was watching "channel seven" while they invited doctors, experts, and displayed repasts of chickens which I am sure that they are healthy. I myself eat this meat, but the question is why do people deny them and doubt their words? The reason is the crisis of distrust. People believe external media and belie their home media. Then even if they brought thousands of doctors and experts to convince people that these birds are free from the virus, people will not believe them.




The question is linked with the crisis of distrust and incredibility that prevails the street. When we raise the slogan of democracy, there must be an amount of credibility. When you raise the slogan of freedom, credibility is badly needed, when you applaud human rights, credibility is essential. Otherwise, these issues will be no more than empty slogans and shibboleths and trifle speech that deepen crisis.




v       Mr. Al-Jibali, finally, do you want to direct an advice for the readers?




By Allah, I do not mean any certain party with word, even if the most intended would be those in rule. The address is directed to whom it concerns: "Help us pass this critical phase for the welfare and interests of all. Tunisia has enough rooms for all. It cannot be otherwise. It is for all and enough for all. Let us cooperate to exceed the ruins of the past. Let us look forward for better future, God willing."


















[1] Ijtihad is a technical term of the Islamic law that describes the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the sources of the law, the Qur’an and the Sunna.

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