Enter stage right: a preacher from the hardline Tunisia Salafist movement. He urges Tunisians (in his mind he thinks this is a Fatwa) not to exchange New Years greetings. “Sharing the feast days of the infidel or even sending them greetings to mark them is a big sin,” Sheikh Beshir Ben Hassine said in sermon posted on Facebook. His speech is indicative of one of the challenges the Tunisian revolution faces. [AFP] Enter stage left: Alaya Alani, a professor of contemporary history at Manouba University. He told Radio Tataouine today that imams in mosques were encouraging Tunisian youths to participate in jihad in Mali and Syria. He urged the government to put an end to this "indoctrination". [magharebia]
About a year ago we began to hear of a rise in Salafist activity. In the tobacco farming community in Bizerte people spoke of sharia tribunals, secret jails and attacks by sword-wielding mobs on wedding photographers, beer drinkers, statuette-makers, wine vendors and young men who fail to attend prayers. Even schoolgirls who refuse to wear the veil are subject to assault. This is serious stuff and has aroused the interest of international human rights groups as well as Tunisia’s own Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH). "The Salafist phenomenon is present throughout the country. The reason it was able to proliferate in Sejnane is due to the lack of security or functioning government institutions in the area," LTDH chief Abdessatar Ben Moussa said.
Some think the poverty and lack of central government presence in the area is enabling the extreme Salafists to recruit and impose their will on the people. Education levels seem not to matter as some unemployed university graduates are part of the Salafist movement.
Meanwhile there is another conflict emerging over the freedom of expression. There have been a number of journalists, bloggers, and artists accused of ‘security infractions’ and worse. Some of their work pointed to corruption in government and other works, like the controversial art show at the Palais Abdellia in La Marsa were modernist expositions of cultural focus. [The art show generated three days of Salafist protests led to rioting that forced the government to order curfews in several Tunisian cities. Over a dozen Salafists have been arrested.
Tunisians are divided on the free speech issue. Travel bans and threats of jail face several journalists and bloggers. Journalist Mona Bouazizi was charged with slander. "The article revealed administrative corruption in the co-operative for school and university accidents (MASU)," Bouazizi said. "I was surprised to be summoned for investigation.”
On the other side, prosecutor Mostafa Dalleji, "Prosecuting those who attempt to distort the actions of the government is an obligation so the perpetrators can be used as examples for others." "The corrupt and leftist media want to bring down this government by fabricating false charges. Therefore we must stand against the enemies of the revolution," he concluded.
In these first years of hope there are many ways to navigate the new-found freedoms. Let us pray that Tunisia finds the path to more peaceful tomorrows. Inshallah.
January 21, 2013 by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact