Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali delivers his speech at the Ennahda party congress in Tunis, Thursday, July, 12, 2012. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party was elected after a transition period following the January 2011 ouster of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. (AP Photo/Amine Landoulsi)
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — Tunisia's ruling Islamists are emphasizing their commitment to a civil, democratic state — as opposed to one under hardline religious rule — as they open their first party congress since taking power.
The comments appear aimed at easing concerns of many in the opposition, who fear an erosion of Tunisia's secular, progressive heritage now that Islamists are in charge.
Tunisians overthrew a dictatorial regime last year, paving the way for October elections won handily by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which was banned under the previous government.
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, the party's secretary general, said in his opening speech Thursday that Tunisia would retain its civil, democratic state, though with "an Islamic reference."
The four-day party congress is the first Ennahda has been able to hold in public.
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