The Al-Nahda Movement in Tunisia: From Renaissance to Revolution

  • Michael Collins Dunn


The Al-Nahda (“renaissance” or “revival”) movement in Tunisia, originally called the Islamic Tendency Movement (MTI), provides a case study of an Islamic revival movement with a political agenda that, in its early years, appeared to be one of the most moderate in the Arab world. Today, however, its leadership is in prison or in exile, charged with plotting to overthrow the government and assassinate the president of the republic, and its followers are displaying a very low profile. There has been no near-uprising comparable to that which followed the suppression of the Islamic Salvation Front in neighboring Algeria. (Later in this essay, I will reflect on the differences between the Algerian and Tunisian cases.) To some this is a sign that the Tunisian government, overreacting to the Islamist challenge, has resorted to repressive measures against an essentially benign movement. In this study I intend in no way to defend repression or to excuse imprisonment without due process. But I do believe that the evidence suggests that the Al-Nahda movement has itself evolved or been driven toward a far more radical and revolutionary position than it originally appeared to hold. This has led to a splitting from the party by the more evolutionist, less confrontational wing of the party once led by ‘Abd al-Fattah Mourou—the “moderates” as some might call them—while the party leader, Rached Ghannouchi, has moved to a far more radical rhetoric than he displayed in his earlier career.


Saudi Arabia Security Group Secret Apparatus Muslim Brotherhood Islamist Movement 
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  1. 2.
    Keddie, op. cit., 33–34.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    The standard study of membership is Mohamed Elbaki Hermassi, “La société tunisienne au miroir islamiste,” Maghreb-Machrek, no. 103 (1984): 339–46. On women, see Sohayr Belhassen, “Femmes tunisiennes islamistes,” in Annuaire de l’Afrique du Nord, 1979; Nikki Keddie, op. cit.; Susan Waltz, “Islamist Appeal in Tunisia,” The Middle East Journal, vol. XL, no. 4 (Autumn 1986), 651–70Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Hermassi, op. cit., 46–47.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    ibid., 48 ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Collins Dunn

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