The leader of a long-outlawed Tunisian Islamist party has told his critics not to compare him to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini.
Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi has returned home after living in the UK for the last 22 years. He told reporters his views were far more moderate than the father of Iran’s Islamic revolution.
Ghannouchi, who is no relation to the current Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, leads the movement known as Ennahda which was once the main opposition party in Tunisia.
“We’ve long accepted freedom of religion, the rights of all political parties to exist and the Tunisian code of personal status,” said Ghannouchi. (The code he is referring to is a series of laws promoting equal rights between men and women and establishing the rules of divorce). The Islamist leader went on to say, “secular women had no need to fear him”.
Thousands of Tunisians turned out to welcome Ghannouchi. His return coincides with the interim government’s lifting of restrictions on political parties.
Despite being elected Ennahda party leader in 2005, the 69-year-old said he would not be standing in any future presidential elections.