A radical Tunisian Islamist leader, denied an entry visa into the United States during the 1990s, is scheduled to make two appearances on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Tunisia's Ennahda Party, will attend a forum on the Arab Spring at the Cannon Office Building, an announcement from the event's sponsor, the Muslim Public Affairs Council's (MPAC) said. He'll also attend a special dinner Tuesday evening.
Ghannouchi's Ennahda Party recently won the majority in the first free parliamentary elections since the ouster of Tunisia's longtime ruler, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Though hailed as a pro-democratic and moderate party by several media outlets and political figures, Ennahda, and its leader, have provided ample evidence to the contrary.
In a May interview with the Al Arab Qatari website, for example, Ghannouchi called for the destruction of Israel and expressed optimism that the Jewish state would disappear in the very near future.
The Arab Spring "will achieve positive results on the path to the Palestinian cause and threaten the extinction of Israel," Ghannouchi said. "I give you the good news that the Arab region will get rid of the bacillus of Israel. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, said that Israel will disappear by the year 2027. I say that this date may be too far away, and Israel may disappear before this."
Ghannouchi has also blessed the mothers of Palestinian suicide bombers, defended rocket attacks carried out by Hamas against Israeli civilians and "martyrdom operations," and called for Muslims to fund and provide logistical support for Hamas.
Similar sentiments prompted the U.S. State Department to deny Ghannouchi a visa in 1994, when he was invited to speak to audiences in America, including a forum in Tampa organized by a think-tank run by Sami Al-Arian, who was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's governing board. The State Department did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
MPAC's promotion of the event lauded Ghannouchi as "One of the most important figures in modern Islamic political thought and theory."
"Confirmed! MPAC hosting Rachid Ghannouchi on Tuesday evening for a forum on Islam, Democracy and the Arab Spring in Washington DC!," boasted Haris Tarin, director of MPAC's Washington DC office, on his Facebook page. "Ghannouchi is an [sic] modern intellectual giant on Islam and governance. BIG TIME! If you are in DC and want to come, hit me up!"
Ennahda's platform declares "the need to challenge the Zionist colonial attack" and refers to Israel as an "alien entity planted in the heart of the homeland, which constitutes an obstacle to unity and reflects the image of the conflict between our civilization and its enemies."
MPAC is certainly no stranger to controversy and has made countless radical statements of its own. Its embrace of Ghannouchi, whose party is predicting the rise of the 6th Caliphate, further calls into question the wisdom of government partnerships which legitimize MPAC as mainstream.