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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 latest days over the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted here final week when military helicopters and security forces were 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 wonderful!” and “No to brothels inside a Muslim country!”

Five weeks 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, Islamism must be infused into the new government.

About 98 % of the population of ten million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western life style shatter stereotypes from the Arab globe. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and ladies generally 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 are concerned that in the cacophonous aftermath from the revolution, conservative forces could tug the country away from its strict tradition of secularism.

“Nothing is irreversible,” said Khadija Cherif, a former head of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Girls, a feminist organization. “We really don’t desire to let down our guard.”

Ms. Cherif was one particular of thousands of Tunisians who marched by means of Tunis, the capital, on Saturday demanding the separation of mosque and state in one of many largest 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 primary 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 for the Islamic parties that govern Turkey and Malaysia.

“We know we have an essentially fragile economic system that is extremely open toward the outside world, to the point of getting completely dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary general, mentioned in an interview with the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing every little thing away today or tomorrow.”

The party, 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 inform how the Islamist movement would evolve.

“We really don’t know if they are a genuine threat or not,” she said. “But the most effective defense is usually to attack.” By this she meant that secularists really should assert themselves, she mentioned.

Ennahdha is among the few organized movements inside a extremely fractured political landscape. The caretaker government that has managed the nation because Mr. Ben Ali was ousted is fragile and weak, with no clear leadership emerging from the revolution.

The unanimity from the protest movement against Mr. Ben Ali in January, the uprising that set off demonstrations across the Arab globe, has because evolved into quite a few daily protests by competing groups, a advancement that many Tunisians locate unsettling.

“Freedom can be a wonderful, great adventure, but it is not with out dangers,” stated Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

One of the biggest demonstrations because Mr. Ben Ali fled took location on Sunday in Tunis, where a number of thousand protesters marched to the prime minister’s office to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of possessing 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 first president, resembles a Roman forum on weekends, packed with individuals of all ages excitedly discussing politics.

The freewheeling and somewhat chaotic atmosphere across the nation has been accompanied by a breakdown in security that has been especially unsettling for ladies. Using the extensive security apparatus of the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, several girls 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 inside the joy from 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 thought to be extremist, a draconian police program that included monitoring these who prayed often, helped safeguard the rights of females.

“We had the freedom to reside our lives like females in Europe,” she said.

But now Ms. Thouraya stated she was a “little scared.”

She added, “We don’t know who is going to be president and what attitudes he may have toward females.”

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

“This is a maritime country,” Mr. Troudi said. “We are sailors, and we’ve often been open towards the outside planet. I’ve self-confidence in the Tunisian people. It is not a country of fanatics.”

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