Monday, April 16, 2012

Tunisia's Islamist Government Wants Bikini-Clad Tourists

Tunisia needs tourism for its economy to thrive. 7 million people visited the world famous pristine beaches, desert and  historical/cultural sites in 2010, but only 5 million in 2011 after the Islamists overwhelmingly won control of the parliament. That's a loss of over one third of tourist dinars, and the Islamists are worried. So Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali (of the Ennahda Party) wants to reassure potential tourists that nothing will change under an Islamist leadership, and that they can bring their bikinis and suntanable bodies to his country with no problems.

“We will respect the traditions of our visitors in their food, and clothing and lifestyle,” Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said at a conference to promote tourism held on the island of Djerba, known for its white sandy beaches and luxury spas. "Unfortunately, some want to paint Tunisia as a jungle and sow fear of the Ennahda government but this does not reflect reality and the proof is that these critics speak freely."

He even allowed alcohol at the opening ceremony, just to prove he was sincere. But Ennahda has an obvious public relations problem considering most Islamists are not moderate (if there's such a thing), and most of us, when we think of Islamists, think of Sharia and all its ugly trappings. But Jebali wants the world (and his own people) to know that they have no intention of establishing Sharia law in Tunisia.

“We want to reassure everyone and even our own people that there is nothing to fear from freedom and democracy."
Of course, there are still hard-core Islamists who are fighting to impose Sharia, and will probably continue to do so until they get their way. But here's hoping those tourist dollars are important enough to stave off the total Islamization of Tunisia. 

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