Rashid Ghannoushi, the exiled leader of the Tunisian Al-Nahda Movement, has returned home despite a 1991 sentence of banishment. The return of Tunisia's leading Islamist thinker and politician has caused concerns for the growth of liberal democracy in the country, following the overthrow of longtime dictator Zine El Abidin Ben Ali.
Ghannoushi was greeted by thousands of supporters. Near his supporters was a small group of secular opponents carrying banners with signs reading: "No Islam, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity."
In an interview with Iran's PressTV, Ghannoushi said he had "not sought to play any role" in any transitional Tunisian government. "We have not been consulted about the government or its members or its committees. There are worrying indicators that the security services are still very much active."
While Ghannoushi's short term aim is a coalition government, his long term goal is to play a strong part in Tunisia's government. He advocated an "Islamic democracy."
"Islam - at least in the public sphere - is synonymous with justice and the quest for justice," he said in a recent interview. Though Ghannoushi's political vision was "pluralistic" and "inclusive," he claimed he envisioned "social justice" along the lines of Turkey's AKP political party, which has been steadily tearing down the secularism that characterized the Turkish regime.
Ghannoushi also agreed that he was a religious intellectual like foreign Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khatamei, but stated that Tunisia needed democracy and not "Valiyat-e-Faqih" [rule of the clerics].