Feb 23 2011

Subsequent Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics

Subsequent Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics


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 right 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 excellent!” and “No to brothels in 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 regardless of whether, Islamism must be infused into the new government.

About 98 percent of the population of ten million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes from the Arab globe. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and girls commonly put on bikinis on the country’s Mediterranean beaches. Wine is openly sold in supermarkets and imbibed at bars across the nation.

Women’s groups say they’re concerned that inside the cacophonous aftermath from the revolution, conservative forces could tug the nation away from its strict tradition of secularism.

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

Ms. Cherif was one particular of thousands of Tunisians who marched by way of Tunis, the capital, on Saturday demanding the separation of mosque and state in one of the largest demonstrations since the overthrow of Mr. Ben Ali.

Protesters held up signs 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 motion, 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 that’s very open toward the outside world, for the point of becoming totally dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary basic, mentioned in an interview using the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing everything away right now 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 remain unconvinced.

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

“We don’t know if they may be a actual threat or not,” she said. “But the most beneficial defense is usually 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 nation given that Mr. Ben Ali was ousted is fragile and weak, with no clear leadership emerging from the revolution.

The unanimity of the protest motion against Mr. Ben Ali in January, the uprising that set off demonstrations across the Arab world, has given that evolved into quite a few everyday protests by competing groups, a advancement that many Tunisians discover unsettling.

“Freedom can be a wonderful, fantastic adventure, but it’s not without dangers,” mentioned Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

Among the biggest demonstrations considering that Mr. Ben Ali fled took location on Sunday in Tunis, where a number of thousand protesters marched for the prime minister’s workplace 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 nation 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 folks of all ages excitedly discussing politics.

The freewheeling and somewhat chaotic atmosphere across the nation continues to be accompanied by a breakdown in security that has been especially unsettling for females. With all the extensive security apparatus of the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, numerous girls 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 within 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 program that included monitoring those who prayed often, helped safeguard the rights of girls.

“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 do not know who is going to be president and what attitudes he may have toward ladies.”

Mounir Troudi, a jazz musician, disagrees. He has no love 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 country,” Mr. Troudi said. “We are sailors, and we’ve usually been open to the outside world. I’ve self-confidence in the Tunisian folks. It’s not a nation of fanatics.”

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