The election of an Islamist government in Tunisia wouldn’t mean bikinis and beer won’t be welcome on its beaches, the leader of a once-outlawed party says. Rached Ghannouchi, who heads the North African country’s most liberal Islamist party, Al Nahda, says women may sunbathe and alcohol can flow freely if his party takes power in the elections scheduled for October. Ghannouchi, 70, supports a democratic interpretation of Islam, as seen in Turkey, and spent more than two decades in exile in London for his views. He returned to Tunisia in January after a popular uprising ended president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s 24-year despotic rule.
Al Nahda, which means “the awakening” in Arabic, is expected to emerge from the election with more votes than any other political party. Maintaining the appeal of Tunisia as a tourist destination is front of mind for the party, as the industry has taken a hit amidst an ongoing war in neighbouring Libya. Ghannouchi says his party will discourage drinking, rather than ban the use of alcohol. “Islam is not a closed religion. We want our country to be open to all nations,” he told the London Times. “Our aim will not be to cut supply of alcohol, but to reduce demand.”