Fundamentalists of North Africa on the Rise………….


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Yesterday, the Islamist party Ennahda declared on national evening television that it would keep intact Article 1 of the 1959 Tunisian Constitution. Article 1 of Tunisia’s first constitution explicitly states that Tunisia is a free, sovereign, and independent state, whose “religion is Islam, language is Arabic, and regime is republic.”………. This decision came in a very delicate political context, as an ongoing debate over the place of religion in post-revolutionary Tunisian society and government continues to evolve. The past two weeks alone have seen several demonstrations, some calling for the implementation of Shariaa, law based on the Koran and other Muslim holy writings, in the constitution, and others calling for a civil state……………

The more ‘moderate’ Tunisian Islamists of Ennahda have decided to keep their promise and not try and transform the country into a theocracy. Not yet. Media reports indicate that a few thousand, no doubt mostly Salafis, have demonstrated for a full application of the Shari’a. That would have transformed Tunisia into a Saudi-style Salafi regime. In that case, Tunisia would be transformed into the Democratic People’s Salafi Republic of Tunisia, just as the Arabian Peninsula is now the Democratic People’s Salafi Kingdom of Arabia. That would have been a disaster for the country, given the strong secular streak among many of its people, and given the heavy economic reliance on tourism, and given the proximity to Europe.
Even some of the Gulf GCC countries that apply strict Islamic rules at home would not want that to happen in Tunisia, for two reasons: (1) They have invested heavily in the Tunisian tourist industry (hotels, resorts, etc), and (2) Where else would the potentates go for their long peaceful (and I might add ‘fun-filled’) holidays? You never read about any Saudi princes and other Gulf potentate vacationing in Afghanistan, do you? Not even during the rule of the Taliban. Come to think of it, you never read of any of these potentates ever vacationing in Saudi Arabia either. Maybe it has to do with the ambiance, or maybe it is that “whatever happens in Tunisia and Morocco stays in Tunisia and Morocco’.
Most of it, from what I hear.

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