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Tunisia says yes to Islam, no to extremism

Over the past few decades, the country has been the standard-bearer of social and cultural developments in the region. Under the influence of Habib Bourguiba, the founder and first president of the republic, who was in office from July 25, 1957 until November 7, 1987, Tunisia became one of the most Westernized Arab countries and mostly employed extremist secularists to run the state.

No other country in the Arab world and the entire Middle East and North Africa region was so open to Western secularism. Only Turkey and the founder of the republic, Kemal Ataturk, can be regarded as an exception in this regard. Over the years, Western-oriented politicians and scholars tried to deculturate the Tunisian people and separate them from their original Islamic and Arab identity.

However, in the first free election since the fall of former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisian citizens decided to return to Islam as the best reference point for establishing democracy and justice and gave a resounding victory to the moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

This is a major development because it will have repercussions in the entire Arab world, especially in the countries that have successfully deposed their autocratic rulers and are seeking to establish a new democratic system.

Ennahdha won a plurality of the votes in the recent election, even though the other parties adopted similar approaches toward the Islamic and Arab roots of Tunisia and tried to distance themselves from the West.

All three major parties share one common point, which is their moderate outlook. During the recent election, extremist groups of the fundamentalist and secular persuasions actively campaigned for votes, but the moderate parties won the day.

In fact, Tunisians have officially declared their determination to distance themselves from extremism in any form and the moderate Islamists of Ennahdha are the best vehicle for realizing this objective.

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