The role of Tunisia’s primary Islamist party—Ennahda—within the country’s political scene ebbed and flowed both during and after the 2011 revolution. Today, despite a parliamentary system with dozens of political parties in some form of power, Tunisia operates like a two-party democracy, with power vacillating between Ennahda and its primary rival, Nidaa Tounes. Understanding how Ennahda got to where it is today is crucial to understanding where it—and the country—is going.

While the party’s initial success was consistent with an Islamist wave that swept across the Arab Spring states in 2011–2012, Ennahda has continued to succeed where other Islamist parties in the region—particularly Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood—have dramatically failed. Anne Wolf’s book, Political Islam in Tunisia, offers a comprehensive overview of the history of Ennahda, examining not only the origins and evolution of this Islamist party but also the way the country has dealt with the highly contentious issue of what role religion should play in politics. The book tackles this question in today’s democratic context, but also provides the reader with a brief overview of the role religion played in the pre-independence period, as well as a longer treatment of the Bourguiba and Ben Ali eras....

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This book review was originally published in the Journal of Islamic Studies.