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Subsequent Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics

Subsequent 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 recent days over the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted right here final week when military helicopters and security forces were named 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 excellent!” and “No to brothels in a Muslim country!”

Five weeks right after protesters forced out the country’s dictator, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are locked in a fierce and noisy debate about how far, or even whether or not, Islamism needs to be infused into the new government.

About 98 % from the population of ten million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western life-style shatter stereotypes with the Arab world. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and girls typically wear 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 are concerned that within the cacophonous aftermath with the revolution, conservative forces could tug the nation away from its strict tradition of secularism.

“Nothing is irreversible,” mentioned Khadija Cherif, a former head with the Tunisian Association of Democratic Ladies, a feminist organization. “We don’t need to let down our guard.”

Ms. Cherif was a single of a large number of Tunisians who marched via Tunis, the capital, on Saturday demanding the separation of mosque and state in among the largest demonstrations since the overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali.

Protesters held up signs 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 movement, Ennahdha, or Renaissance, which was banned underneath Mr. Ben Ali’s dictatorship but is now regrouping.

In interviews within the Tunisian news media, Ennahdha’s leaders have taken pains to praise tolerance and moderation, comparing themselves to the Islamic parties that govern Turkey and Malaysia.

“We know we have an basically fragile economy which is quite open toward the outside world, to the point of being totally dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary common, said in an interview with the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing every little thing away right now 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 remain unconvinced.

Raja Mansour, a bank employee in Tunis, stated it was too early to inform how the Islamist motion would evolve.

“We really don’t know if they’re a actual threat or not,” she mentioned. “But the very best defense is usually to attack.” By this she meant that secularists really should assert themselves, she stated.

Ennahdha is among the couple of organized movements in a very fractured political landscape. The caretaker government that has managed the nation considering 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 planet, has considering that evolved into many day-to-day protests by competing groups, a advancement that a lot of Tunisians uncover unsettling.

“Freedom is a wonderful, excellent adventure, but it is not without dangers,” said Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are several unknowns.”

One of the largest demonstrations given that Mr. Ben Ali fled took place on Sunday in Tunis, where numerous thousand protesters marched towards the prime minister’s workplace to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of acquiring links to Mr. Ben Ali’s government.

Tunisians are debating the future of their country on the streets. Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the broad thoroughfare in central Tunis named after the country’s very first president, resembles a Roman forum on weekends, packed with folks of all ages excitedly discussing politics.

The freewheeling and somewhat chaotic atmosphere across the country has been accompanied by a breakdown in security that has been specifically unsettling for women. With the substantial security apparatus with the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, a lot of ladies now say they’re 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 in the joy with 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 considered extremist, a draconian police system that included monitoring those who prayed often, helped safeguard the rights of women.

“We had the freedom to live our lives like girls in Europe,” she stated.

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 may have toward ladies.”

Mounir Troudi, a jazz musician, disagrees. He has no appreciate for the former Ben Ali government, but said he believed that Tunisia would remain a land of beer and bikinis.

“This is often a maritime nation,” Mr. Troudi stated. “We are sailors, and we’ve constantly been open for the outside globe. I’ve self-confidence in the Tunisian people. It’s not a nation of fanatics.”

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