Rashid al-Ghannushi is a Tunisian Islamist who contributed to founding the Ḥizb al‐Nahḍah, the Tunisian Renaissance Party. Al-Ghannushi was born in 1941 outside of al-Hama, in the Qabis province of southern Tunisia.
He received his certificate of attainment degree, equivalent to the Baccalaureate, in 1962 from the University of Zaytuna. He entered the school of agriculture at Cairo University in 1964, but following the expulsion of Tunisians from Egypt due to the dispute between Gamal Abdel Nasser and Habib Bourguiba, he left for Syria. He studied philosophy at the University of Damascus, graduating in 1968. While in Damascus, Al-Ghannushi initially joined the European Socialist Party, but later adopted a more religious viewpoint. He spent a year in France at the Sorbonne before returning toTunisia and, along with many other Tunisians, established an organization devoted to the reform of Tunisian society based on Islamic principles.
Following an opening of political space in April 1981 by Bourguiba, Al-Ghannushi founded the “al-ittijah al-islami” or Islamic Tendency Movement. The Movement described itself as specifically rooted in Islam, anti-violence, and called for a “reconstruction of economic life on a more equitable basis, the end of single-party politics and the acceptance of political pluralism and democracy.” By the end of July, Al-Ghannushi and his followers were arrested, sentenced to eleven years in prison in Bizerte, and were tortured. Both the religious and secular community, including numerous secular political organizations, rallied in his support. He was released in 1984, returned to prison in 1987 with a life sentence, but was again released in 1988. He moved to Europe as a political exile, and lived there until the early 1990s.
Al-Ghannushi continues to criticize Tunisian politics, and particular President Ben Ali.