Sunday, January 29, 2012

Tunisians Take To The Streets To Protest Conservative Islam

Here's some promising news out of Tunisia. Some people there are not too happy about the turn of events since the Islamists took control of the government in October. It seems the uber-conservative Salafists are, like in Egypt, trying to see how far they can push the envelope, so to speak, and the moderate Islamist Ennahda party is not doing much to stop it.

So, the people are back on the streets, but this time it's not to demonstrate against former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, it's to protest the Islamists

An AFP correspondent estimated several thousand activists, professors, artists and other demonstrators flooded the streets of the nation’s capital, including along Bourguiba Avenue, a well-known thoroughfare that became a center for dissent during protests that led to the ouster of dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali a year ago.

Some in Tunisia are angry by the growing influence of radical Islamists, known as Salafists, who have dominated headlines in recent weeks.

Police on Tuesday ended a weeks-long sit-in by Salafists at the university in Manouba, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Tunis. The Salafists were angry the university had banned the full-face Muslim veil, or niqab, over security concerns if students were concealed from head to toe.

Journalists have also suffered attacks at Salafist protests.

“We are here to speak out against aggression against journalists, activists and academics,” said Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, founder of the Democratic Progressive Party. “And to tell the government that Tunisians’ hard-fought freedoms must not be compromised.”

Sarah Kalthoum, a retired teacher in her 70s, said she was concerned by what she viewed as regressive ideas from Salafists.

“We spent our lives educating people, and now some want us to go back in time 14 centuries,” she said.
These people might have lived under autocratic rule for several decades, but at least the country was secular. The possibility, nay,  probability of their country turning religiously conservative- if they don't fight it now- is not appealing in the least. One woman  said of the growing problem,

“The grocer told me the other day, ‘I don’t like your jeans,’“ said Leila Katech, a retired anesthesiologist. “I told him I didn’t like his beard.”

Through this religious prism, “Everything becomes tougher: Going to see a gynaecologist, what to wear, how to talk,” Katech said.

According to Chebbi,  Ennahda just doesn't want to rock the boat when it comes to their more extremist brothers; they're "complacent", as he put it.  Which, of course, is the quickest way to lose control.  The Tunisian people are very smart to tackle the problem now, before it's too late. You cut that tumor out before it metastasizes.

Since Tunisia was the catalyst for the Arab Spring, perhaps those other countries who kicked out or killed their own dictators who are having their own Islamist troubles will do the same thing.

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