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 more than the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted here final week when military helicopters and security forces had been called 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 following 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 must be infused into the new government.
About 98 percent from 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 females 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 in 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 want 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 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 primary Muslim political motion, Ennahdha, or Renaissance, which was banned beneath 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 towards the Islamic parties that govern Turkey and Malaysia.
“We know we have an essentially fragile economy which is quite open toward the outside globe, towards the point of getting totally dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary general, said in an interview with all the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing every thing away these days 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, stated it was too early to inform how the Islamist movement would evolve.
“We really don’t know if they are a actual threat or not,” she mentioned. “But the best defense is to attack.” By this she meant that secularists need to assert themselves, she mentioned.
Ennahdha is one of the handful of organized movements inside 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 with the protest movement against Mr. Ben Ali in January, the uprising that set off demonstrations across the Arab planet, has because evolved into quite a few every day protests by competing groups, a improvement that numerous Tunisians uncover unsettling.
“Freedom can be a great, wonderful adventure, but it is not without having dangers,” stated Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are a lot of unknowns.”
One of the largest demonstrations because Mr. Ben Ali fled took spot on Sunday in Tunis, where a number of thousand protesters marched towards the prime minister’s office to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of having hyperlinks to Mr. Ben Ali’s government.
Tunisians are debating the long term of their nation on the streets. Avenue Habib Bourguiba, the broad thoroughfare in central Tunis named right after the country’s 1st president, resembles a Roman forum on weekends, packed with individuals of all ages excitedly discussing politics.
The freewheeling and somewhat chaotic atmosphere across the country continues to be accompanied by a breakdown in security that has been specifically unsettling for females. Using the substantial security apparatus of the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, many ladies now say they are 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 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 program that included monitoring these who prayed frequently, helped protect the rights of girls.
“We had the freedom to live our lives like women in Europe,” she mentioned.
But now Ms. Thouraya said she was a “little scared.”
She added, “We really don’t know who will be president and what attitudes he will have toward females.”
Mounir Troudi, a jazz musician, disagrees. He has no love for the former Ben Ali government, but said he believed that Tunisia would stay a land of beer and bikinis.
“This is often a maritime country,” Mr. Troudi said. “We are sailors, and we’ve often been open towards the outside globe. I’ve confidence inside the Tunisian people. It is not a country of fanatics.”