Thousands rally for Shariah in Tunisia

Thousands rally for Shariah in Tunisia

Thousands rally for Shariah in Tunisia

Thousands of Islamists march through Tunis calling for the application of Shariah. Tensions are rising between seculars and Islamists after the Ben Ali era. AP photo

At least 8,000 Islamists, mainly dominated by Salafis, staged a mass demonstration in central Tunis on March 25 in the latest show of force to demand the adoption of Islamic law in the north African country.

Waving black flags, they shouted slogans demanding that Islamic law, or sharia, be defined as the main source of legislation in Tunisia’s new constitution. “The people want an Islamic state,” “the people want sharia,” chanted the protesters, whose number was estimated by a police officer on site at between 8,000 and 10,000.

A constituent assembly elected in October, in the first vote after the revolution ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, has about a year to hash out a new constitution. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party won the election and now heads the government, but has chosen to rule in coalition with two secular parties and has promised not to ban alcohol or impose the veil as some secularists had initially feared. There has also been the rise of ultraconservatives known as Salafis who carry out weekly demonstrations calling for the Islamization of society. Secular Tunisians worry, however, that whatever the constitution says, hard-line Salafi Islamists will try to impose their views, pressing women to wear the veil or restaurants to stop serving alcohol, and ultimately turning the Mediterranean tourist destination into a conservative Islamic state.

Opposition from Ennahda
Ennahda party will not back calls by conservatives to make sharia the main source of legislation in a new constitution, a senior party official said yesterday. “Ennahda has decided to retain the first clause of the previous constitution without change,” Ameur Larayed told Radio Mosaique. “We want the unity of our people and we do not want divisions.” Demonstrators also condemned as “an unacceptable crime” and a “provocative act” the desecration of the Quran and religious sites in incidents in Tunisia last week. Copies of the Muslim holy book were found torn in a mosque in the southeastern town of Ben Guerdane and eggs splattered on its walls.

Compiled from AFP, AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff