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 right here last week when military helicopters and security forces were known 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 in a Muslim nation!”
Five 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 must be infused in to the new government.
About 98 % with 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 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 may be concerned that within 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 with the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, a feminist organization. “We don’t desire to let down our guard.”
Ms. Cherif was one of a large number of Tunisians who marched by means of Tunis, the capital, on Saturday demanding the separation of mosque and state in among the biggest demonstrations because the overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali.
Protesters held up indicators saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”
They were also mourning the killing on Friday of a Polish priest by unknown attackers. That assault was also condemned by the country’s main Muslim political movement, 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 basically fragile economic system that’s really open toward the outside planet, for the point of getting entirely dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary common, said in an interview using the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing anything away today 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 tell how the Islamist motion would evolve.
“We do not know if they may be a real threat or not,” she mentioned. “But the best defense is to attack.” By this she meant that secularists ought to assert themselves, she mentioned.
Ennahdha is one of the few organized movements inside a highly fractured political landscape. The caretaker government that has managed the country considering that 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 world, has considering that evolved into several every day protests by competing groups, a advancement that numerous Tunisians discover unsettling.
“Freedom is really a great, fantastic adventure, but it’s not with out risks,” mentioned Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are numerous unknowns.”
One of many largest demonstrations given that Mr. Ben Ali fled took location on Sunday in Tunis, where several thousand protesters marched towards the prime minister’s workplace to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of having 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 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 has been especially unsettling for ladies. Together with the substantial security apparatus from the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, several females now say they may be afraid to walk outside alone at evening.
Achouri Thouraya, a 29-year-old graphic artist, says she has mixed feelings toward the revolution.
She shared in 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 deemed extremist, a draconian police plan that included monitoring those who prayed on a regular basis, helped protect the rights of women.
“We had the freedom to reside our lives like ladies in Europe,” she mentioned.
But now Ms. Thouraya mentioned 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 appreciate for the former Ben Ali government, but mentioned he believed that Tunisia would stay a land of beer and bikinis.
“This is a maritime nation,” Mr. Troudi stated. “We are sailors, and we’ve always been open for the outside planet. I have confidence inside the Tunisian individuals. It’s not a country of fanatics.”