Ennahdha and the rebellious poet

Ennahdha and the rebellious poet
Comment: Ennahdha has made the first move towards reconciliation after visiting its opponent poet Saghier Oulad Ahmed on his sickbed, writes Salah Eddine al-Jorashi.
2 min read
Abdelfattah Mourou is holding out an olive branch [AFP]

We love the country
As no one loves the country
We visit it on pilgrimage
With the solitary
In the morning
After the evening
On Sunday.
And if they kill us
As they have killed us
And if they scatter us
As they have scattered us
If they send us away
To Bark al-Ghimad
We shall return as invaders
Of this country.

This is an excerpt from a poem by Tunisian poet Saghier Oulad Ahmed, written in defence of Tunis and his birthplace Sidi Bouzid where the Tunisian revolution began.

Sidi Bouzid had turned Ahmed into a persistent creative rebel before the revolution began. 

Ahmed is one of the most formidable poets to have confronted Tunisia's Ennahdha Movement since it emerged as a rising political power. His poems have mobilised Ennahdha's opponents against the moderate Islamist movement.

     Not all Islamists want to fight a continuing ideological war against those who disagree with its interpretation of religion.

Addressing the crowds at the "Bardo sit-in" in 2013, his calls for Ennahdha to abdicate as the ruling political power nearly plunged the country into civil war.

"We are living in August 2013, they are living in Ramadan 1434 Hijri (the Islamic year)," Ahmed said, arguing the movement was rooted in the past.

The poet was strongly attacked for his opinions. Ajmi Lourimi, one of Ennahdha's intellectuals wrote on his official page: "To poet Saghier Oulad Ahmed: I have come to doubt you love the country."

A few days ago, the poet fell ill. While he was sick he received a suprise visit from an Ennahdha delegation led by Sheikh Abdelfattah Mourou, co-founder of the movement. They offered him flowers and wished him a speedy recovery.

This astonished many modernists with some seeing it as a "political tactic". However, the incident has deeper significance.

Tunisia needs to heal its wounds so it can repel attacks from terrorist groups. Elites need to unite so they can guide the country to safety. This means distinguishing between the political and intellectual conflicts dividing Tunisians.

The fact that it was the Islamists who made the first move towards reconciling is positive. It shows that, unlike the jihadi Salafists, not all Islamists want to fight a continuing ideological war against those who disagree with its interpretation of religion.

It shows moderate Islamists share values of common citizenship and a united society. Perhaps Ennahdha has learnt the importance of this from its time in power, and is trying to reassure its opponents hoping they will build new ties with each other.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.