3that investigating the attitude of Islamists vis-à-vis such problems would make a moreinteresting, and at the same time more challenging, topic of research. The idea was toshow that recent democratization experiences in countries such as Jordan, Egypt,Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen prove that serious obstacles confront the transition todemocracy in these countries. As far as I could see, most of these obstacles emanatedfrom outside the Islamic camp, mainly from local authoritarian governments and fromglobal powers seeking to preserve the status quo. There are, however, obstaclesemanating from within the Islamic camp itself caused by the emergence of radicaltrends within the phenomenon of Islamic revival that reject democracy and consider ita heresy imported from the West.In the meantime I had been in contact with Rachid Ghannouchi, one of the mostprominent thinkers in the realm of contemporary Islamic thought and the exiled leaderof the Tunisian Islamic movement Ennahda. I developed an interest in Ghannouchiwhen I met him in London in February 1992, during which time I was asked totranslate a paper submitted by him to a conference on Islam and Democracy in NorthAfrica organized at the London School of Economics by its Islamic Society.Thereafter, whenever Ghannouchi was invited to give a talk or present a paper I wasasked to interpret his talk or translate his paper. The talks and papers covered issuessuch as democracy, secularism, civil society, human rights, the nation-state, civilliberties, Islam and the West, the role and future of Islamic movements, Islamicminorities, and the political situation in Tunisia and North Africa.Rachid Ghannouchi leads a school in modern Islamic political thought that advocatesdemocracy and pluralism. He believes democracy to be a set of mechanisms forguaranteeing the sovereignty of the people and for supplying safety valves againstcorruption and the hegemonic monopoly of power. While insisting on thecompatibility of democracy with Islam, he believes that because of their secularfoundations, contemporary forms of liberal democracy may not suit Muslim societies.Ghannouchi's last and most important book,
Al-Hurriyyat al-'Ammah Fid-Dawlah al- Islamiyyah
(Public liberties in the Islamic state), has been an important contribution tothe current debate within Islamic circles on the nature, duties, and restraints of government in Islam. Yet, although he has authored ten important books, very little of his thought has so far been made available to readers of English. Little has beenwritten about Ghannouchi in English, and most of what has been written about him byacademics
happens to be part of a discussion of either the Tunisian Islamic movementor the question of Islam and democracy. Because I have translated many of the talkshe has given and the papers he has written for English audiences since he settled inLondon, I therefore feel something of an authority on his political perspectives. I feelwell placed to research the genealogy of his political thought and the way heperceives the process of democratization and the obstacles facing it in the Arab world,especially in the North African region.This book, which is a treatise in the field of political theory, begins with a biographyof the first twenty-five or so years of Ghannouchi's life, depicting his childhood andmaturation from the time he was a young boy frequenting school in a remote Tunisianvillage until he interrupted his postgraduate studies in Paris and returned home. Thegenealogy of Rachid Ghannouchi's political thought finds its roots in his youth whenhe was first attracted to Nassirism, then abandoned it for an Ikhwan-Salafi style of religiosity, and finally progressed to an Islamic activism of Tunisian specificity.