Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics
Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics
By THOMAS FULLER
TUNIS - The Tunisian revolution that overthrew decades of authoritarian rule has entered a delicate new phase in current days more than the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted here final week when military helicopters and security forces had been referred to as in to carry out an unusual mission: protecting the city’s brothels from a mob of zealots.
Police officers dispersed a group of rock-throwing protesters who streamed into a warren of alleyways lined with legally sanctioned bordellos shouting, “God is fantastic!” and “No to brothels inside a Muslim nation!”
5 weeks after protesters forced out the country’s dictator, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are locked inside a fierce and noisy debate about how far, or even no matter whether, Islamism ought to be infused in to the new government.
About 98 % of the population of ten million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes with the Arab globe. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and girls frequently put on bikinis on the country’s Mediterranean beaches. Wine is openly sold in supermarkets and imbibed at bars across the country.
Women’s groups say they may be concerned that within the cacophonous aftermath from the revolution, conservative forces could tug the nation away from its strict tradition of secularism.
“Nothing is irreversible,” said Khadija Cherif, a former head from the Tunisian Association of Democratic Females, a feminist organization. “We do not need to let down our guard.”
Ms. Cherif was 1 of a large number of Tunisians who marched by way of Tunis, the capital, on Saturday demanding the separation of mosque and state in one of many biggest demonstrations since the overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali.
Protesters held up indicators saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”
They had been also mourning the killing on Friday of a Polish priest by unknown attackers. That assault was also condemned by the country’s major Muslim political motion, Ennahdha, or Renaissance, which was banned under Mr. Ben Ali’s dictatorship but is now regrouping.
In interviews in the Tunisian news media, Ennahdha’s leaders have taken pains to praise tolerance and moderation, comparing themselves for the Islamic parties that govern Turkey and Malaysia.
“We know we have an essentially fragile economic system that’s very open toward the outside world, towards the point of being entirely dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary basic, mentioned in an interview with all the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing every thing away nowadays or tomorrow.”
The celebration, which is allied with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, says it opposes the imposition of Islamic law in Tunisia.
But some Tunisians say they stay unconvinced.
Raja Mansour, a bank employee in Tunis, said it was too early to tell how the Islamist motion would evolve.
“We do not know if they’re a real threat or not,” she stated. “But the best defense is always to attack.” By this she meant that secularists ought to assert themselves, she said.
Ennahdha is one of the few organized movements in a extremely fractured political landscape. The caretaker government that has managed the country given that Mr. Ben Ali was ousted is fragile and weak, with no clear leadership emerging from the revolution.
The unanimity of the protest movement against Mr. Ben Ali in January, the uprising that set off demonstrations across the Arab globe, has considering that evolved into many every day protests by competing groups, a advancement that a lot of Tunisians discover unsettling.
“Freedom can be a wonderful, great adventure, but it’s not without having risks,” mentioned Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
One of many largest demonstrations since Mr. Ben Ali fled took spot on Sunday in Tunis, exactly where a number of thousand protesters marched for the prime minister’s office to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of getting hyperlinks to Mr. Ben Ali’s government.
Tunisians are debating the long term of their country on the streets. Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the broad thoroughfare in central Tunis named soon after the country’s first president, resembles a Roman forum on weekends, packed with men and women of all ages excitedly discussing politics.
The freewheeling and somewhat chaotic atmosphere across the nation has been accompanied by a breakdown in security that continues to be particularly unsettling for girls. With the substantial security apparatus of the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, many women now say they may be afraid to walk outside alone at night.
Achouri Thouraya, a 29-year-old graphic artist, says she has mixed feelings toward the revolution.
She shared inside the joy of the overthrow of what she described as Mr. Ben Ali’s kleptocratic government. But she also says she believes that the government’s crackdown on any Muslim groups it deemed extremist, a draconian police system that included monitoring those who prayed often, helped protect the rights of ladies.
“We had the freedom to live our lives like ladies in Europe,” she said.
But now Ms. Thouraya stated she was a “little scared.”
She added, “We do not know who will likely be president and what attitudes he will have toward women.”
Mounir Troudi, a jazz musician, disagrees. He has no adore for the former Ben Ali government, but stated he believed that Tunisia would remain a land of beer and bikinis.
“This is really a maritime country,” Mr. Troudi said. “We are sailors, and we’ve often been open to the outside planet. I have self-confidence inside the Tunisian people. It’s not a country of fanatics.”