Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Subsequent Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics

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 recent days more than the role of Islam in politics. Tensions mounted here last week when military helicopters and security forces have been named 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 soon 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 ought to be infused into 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 from the Arab planet. 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’re concerned that in the cacophonous aftermath with the revolution, conservative forces could tug the country away from its strict tradition of secularism.

“Nothing is irreversible,” mentioned Khadija Cherif, a former head with the Tunisian Association of Democratic Girls, 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 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 major Muslim political movement, 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 essentially fragile economic system that is very open toward the outside globe, to the point of getting completely dependent on it,” Hamadi Jebali, the party’s secretary general, said in an interview with the Tunisian magazine Réalités. “We have no interest whatsoever in throwing every little 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 do not know if they are a genuine threat or not,” she mentioned. “But the most effective defense would be to attack.” By this she meant that secularists need to assert themselves, she mentioned.

Ennahdha is among the handful of organized movements in a very fractured political landscape. The caretaker government that has managed the country since 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 world, has because evolved into several every day protests by competing groups, a improvement that numerous Tunisians find unsettling.

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

Among the biggest demonstrations considering that Mr. Ben Ali fled took place on Sunday in Tunis, exactly where numerous thousand protesters marched towards the prime minister’s workplace to demand the caretaker government’s resignation. They accused it of getting hyperlinks 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 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 nation continues to be accompanied by a breakdown in security that continues to be especially unsettling for girls. With the substantial security apparatus with the old government decimated, leaving the police force in disarray, numerous females now say they’re 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 deemed extremist, a draconian police system that included monitoring those who prayed often, helped shield the rights of females.

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

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

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

Mounir Troudi, a jazz musician, disagrees. He has no appreciate for the former Ben Ali government, but said 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 to the outside world. I’ve self-confidence in the Tunisian individuals. It is not a nation of fanatics.”

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