A 2006 Taqiyya Warning About Tunisia’s Leading Candidate for Prime Minister

Hamadi Jebali: Another North African Zabibah-stan Leader-in-Waiting?

On the heels of their landslide election victory,  Tunisia’s Muslim Brotherhood offshoot Ennahda Party has just announced that Ennahda’s Secretary General and spokesperson, Hamadi Jebali (who, fittingly, sports a prominent Zabibah on his forehead, slightly left of center), will be its candidate for Prime Minister.

Career US diplomat, David Ballard, then having a senior role in Tunisia, summarized his 8/30/2006 meeting with Jebali, as recorded in a 9/6/2006 cable published by Wikileaks.

Jebali unabashedly extolled Hamas’s electrical victory as a “paradigm” in his discussion with Ballard. Moreover, Ballard’s own assessment concluded with a sober warning about Jebali’s (and Ennahda’s) dissimulation gleaned from additional interviews with reliably secular elements of Tunisian society, who were also vehement in their opposition to the recently toppled Ben Ali government.

Ballard noted,

Jebali’s insistance that more freedom of expression and freedom of association is necessary for Tunisia’s long-term political development closely echoes our own Freedom Agenda goals in Tunisia.

But the US diplomat seemed appropriately dubious, “…whether An-Nahdha would continue to promote these moderate policies,” given evidence very apparent in September, 2006 of Tunisia’s traditional Islamic resurgence, i.e.,  “…signs of increased religious practice among Tunisians, most visibly evident in a sharp increase in the number of Tunisian women wearing hijab.”

And Ballard acknowledged this major caveat regarding Jebali’s assurances:

Many of our secular opposition and civil society contacts, themselves stridently anti-regime, also warn us “not to be fooled” by An-Nahdha’s talk of moderation. Jebali, the most senior An-Nahdha official with whom we’ve met in recent years, indeed presented what he undoubtedly assumed to be a “West-friendly” description of An-Nahdha’s politics – no Shari’a law, democracy with full participation, etc.


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