Friday, February 24, 2012

Trouble In Tunisia- Police Clash With Islamist Extremists

Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in 2010 led to the rise of the Arab Spring.  The Arab Spring, in turn, has led to rise of the Islamist winter.  Back in Tunisia, the people are battling a small, but steadfast group of extremists who are determined to highjack the democratic movement, as they are attempting to do in all the other countries that managed to purge their nations of their autocratic/dictator leaders.

In Jandouba, according to a witness, Police were forced to use tear gas against a mob of Salafi hardliners who set fire to a police station.

“The security forces are chasing about 200 Salafists armed with swords and sticks after an exchange of petrol bombs and tear gas,” resident Omar Inoubli told Reuters by telephone from Jandouba, about 160 km (99 miles) west of the capital.

“These groups set fire to a police station .... (They) are broadcasting recordings through the loudspeakers of mosques calling for jihad (holy war).”

Apparently, the Islamists (who were banned under  former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime) have been flexing their muscles since his ouster.  This latest fight was precipitated after police nabbed a Salafist.

“The situation has become serious in the city, which has been living in a state of terror and fear because of Salafist groups seeking to impose a strict way of life,” another witness, a woman who did not want to be named, told Reuters.

One resident said the Salafis had threatened people drinking alcohol and slapped women wearing trousers or skirts.

Even though the so-called moderate Islamist Ennahda Party won a majority of seats in the last elections, and  heads a coalition government, apparently it is too afraid to ruffle the feathers of the ultra-conservative, albeit smaller, Salafists and is doing nothing to reign in their excesses.

The Salafists, who represent a small minority of Tunisians, have profited from the new freedoms. They have attacked brothels, bars and cinemas showing films they consider to be morally suspect, and staged protests to demand an end to mixed-gender classes at universities.

While many renounce violence, some have been linked to al-Qaeda’s north African branch.

Tunisians aren't sitting idly back and allowing their country to be taken over; they are protesting the rise of extremism in the country, and taking to the streets to show their anger, but will that be enough?  If Ennahda doesn't take a stronger stance in controlling the Salafists in their midst, Tunisians will lose the battle, unless that's what Ennahda actually wants.

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