Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki is an intellectual who belongs to the Arab Left and who has a rather romanticized concern for human rights.
Men like him are highly beneficial for the protection of human values in civil society. All the countries of the world need people who, like him, have struggled for and who have devoted themselves to defending human rights.
Marzouki is a man of civil struggle—but he is not a statesman, for this statesmen are a different kind of man.
For the Brotherhood-affiliated Ennahda movement in Tunisia, Marzouki was the best possible representative of the secular trend in the government alliance being led and administered by Rachid Ghannouchi’s Ennahda movement.
Marzouki’s other merit is his deep-seated belief in human rights.
But his most recent delusion was manifested in the statement he made during the recent UN General Assembly, in which he said that Mohamed Mursi in Egypt, together with all the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, are political detainees. He even demanded that the Egyptian state—and even the Egyptian people who rebelled against the Brotherhood—should “release Morsi, [Khairat] Al-Shater and all the Brotherhood’s falcons,” and perhaps return them to power.
In my belief, the man was not fully aware of the impact of his words, especially when uttered by a man his position from a state like Tunisia, which is now facing a difficult political challenge.
I trust him in the same manner that I trust every intellectual who is sincerely adhering to his principles. Yet, I distrust the abilities of this type of intellectual when they engage in politics—a game I would not say immoral, but one that requires caution and a clear understanding of issues.
Furthermore, this was not Marzouki’s first delusion.
By saying what he said, Marzouki gave political dissidents in Tunisia the opportunity to criticize him. Beji Caid El-Sebsi, the head of the Tunisian Call party, commented on President Marzouki’s address on what is happening in Egypt by saying, “I do not know what prompted the President of the Republic to intervene in Egypt’s internal affairs. He intervened in something that does not concern him.”
Marzouki’s words also provoked the Egyptian state, and the Egyptian foreign ministry expressed its disappointment over the contents of his address. The majority of intellectuals—excluding, of course, the Brotherhood’s followers—are in favour of what happened in Egypt, so who was Marzouki planning to win over with his words?
Sometimes, being an intellectual is a problem.