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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 more than the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted right here final week when military helicopters and security forces had been 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 in a fierce and noisy debate about how far, or even no matter whether, Islamism needs to be infused in to the new government.

About 98 percent with the population of ten million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western life-style shatter stereotypes of the Arab planet. Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and girls typically 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 in the cacophonous aftermath of the revolution, conservative forces could tug the country away from its strict tradition of secularism.

“Nothing is irreversible,” stated Khadija Cherif, a former head from the Tunisian Association of Democratic Ladies, a feminist organization. “We do not need to let down our guard.”

Ms. Cherif was 1 of a large number of Tunisians who marched by way 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 signs saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”

They have been 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 under 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 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 general, stated in an interview using the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing anything away nowadays 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 stay unconvinced.

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

“We do not know if they are a real threat or not,” she said. “But the best defense is always to attack.” By this she meant that secularists ought to assert themselves, she stated.

Ennahdha is among the handful of organized movements in a extremely 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 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 development that many Tunisians discover unsettling.

“Freedom is really a wonderful, wonderful adventure, but it’s not without having risks,” stated Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are a lot of unknowns.”

One of many largest demonstrations because Mr. Ben Ali fled took spot on Sunday in Tunis, exactly where several thousand protesters marched towards the prime minister’s workplace to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of getting links 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 following the country’s first president, resembles a Roman forum on weekends, packed with people 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 continues to be specifically unsettling for ladies. Together with the extensive security apparatus from the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, several girls 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 within 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 plan that included monitoring those who prayed often, helped defend the rights of girls.

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

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

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

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

“This is a maritime nation,” Mr. Troudi mentioned. “We are sailors, and we’ve constantly been open to the outside globe. I’ve self-confidence within the Tunisian men and women. It is not a country of fanatics.”