The Tunisian political scene has been witnessing recent conflicts between the Muslim Brotherhood political branch in Tunisia, namely Ennahda, and the Salafist front after news regarding clashes with security forces at the behest of Ennahda itself.
The instability of the Brotherhood’s relationship with Salafists in Tunisia has not prevented the opposition from accusing the Troika government of leniency with the Salafists, describing them of the greatest threat to the country.
MP Khemais Ksila has said in earlier press remarks that Salafism in Tunisia turned into organized gangs that practice repressions against opposition figures to ban them from traveling to certain places in the country under claims that they are the remnants of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
Tunisian political analysts further see that the government supported Salafists and remaining silent regarding their violence and crimes to gain their satisfaction and use their votes to ensure Ennahda’s victory in the elections.
Some Salafist political parties also tried to get involved in the political scenes with the help of the Troika government, which was an unofficial name for the alliance between the three parties that ruled in Tunisia after the 2011 Constituent Assembly election.
Reports also said Ghannouchi publicly supported young Salafists, as a leaked footage showed him telling a group of young Salafists that they remind him of his youth, warning that they cannot trust the Tunisian army.
According to Tunisian analysts, Ennahda played the Salafists card for scaremongering, to spread fear among Tunisians regarding the future they could meet if Salafists ruled Tunisia, pointing out that Ennahda’s position completely changed when Salafists crossed its interests.
Tunisian journalist and political scientist Wissam Hamdi said that Ennahdha’s relationship with Salafism was clear, especially in the period after the Tunisian revolution.
However, according to Hamdi’s remarks to The Reference, the party is currently trying to escape the accusations being pointed at Salafists and other political Islam factions, as even if its statements disown any relation with religion, its rules and bases show otherwise.
Hamdi further pointed out that Salafists are Ennahda’s escape goat, as they only resort to them in case of emergencies, especially when being ambushed by civil political powers. Also, Ennahda paved the way for Salafists to seize control of the scene in Tunisia in 2011, 2012 and 2013 by letting them attract young citizens who chose terrorist and moved to Syria and Iraq and the illusion of fighting for Islam.
About elections, Hamdi clarified that it is clear that Ennahda will bet on the Salafists to promote its speech by reviving community battles such as the niqab case, which was banned in Tunisia in recent weeks, and the exploitation of the issue of equality between men and women in inheritance.
The political researcher stressed that the Salafists do not enter direct political battles to win the presidency, however, they work on the field to distort and distract civil parties and secular figures like philosopher Youssef Seddik and late president Beji Caid Essebsi.