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Happy New Year (Or Not)

International FriendshipVia AFP:

AFP – A preacher from the hardline Salafist movement that has achieved growing prominence in Tunisia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings told Tunisians on Monday that the exchange of New Year’s greetings was un-Islamic.

“Sharing the feast days of the infidel or even sending them greetings to mark them is a big sin,” Sheikh Beshir Ben Hassine said in sermon posted on Facebook.

“Wishing someone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year is forbidden by Islam,” the preacher added.

Oh well.

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The Line Still Holds (Just)

Cross-posted on the Corner:

The Daily Telegraph reports:

A key proposal by Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party to outlaw blasphemy in the new constitution, stoking fears of creeping Islamisation, is to be dropped from the final text. The agreement to drop the clause follows negotiations between the three parties in the ruling coalition and must still be approved by the committees drafting the constitution, due to be debated by parliament next month.

It comes after President Moncef Marzouki warned that radical Islamist militants pose a “great danger” to the Maghreb region, and following a wave of violent attacks – blamed on Salafists – on targets ranging from works of art to the US embassy.

“There will certainly be no criminalisation,” said speaker Mustapha Ben Jafaar, the 72-year-old speaker of the National Constituent Assembly, said to AFP.

“That is not because we have agreed to (allow) attacks on the sacred, but because the sacred is something very, very difficult to define. Its boundaries are blurred and one could interpret it in one way or another, in an exaggerated way,” he added.

The plan to criminalise attacks on religious values sparked an outcry when it was first announced by the Islamists in July, with the media and civil society groups warning that it would result in new restrictions on freedom of expression.

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Tunisia: Some Portents

Cross-posted over at the Corner:

This demonstration in Tunis (report from AFP; extract follows) obviously reflects growing unease:

TUNIS — Hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated Saturday for a secular state following the murder of a Polish priest, verbal attacks on Jews and an attempt by Islamists to set light to a brothel. Rallied by a call on social network Facebook, they gathered in the main Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis waving placards reading, “Secularism = Freedom and Tolerance” and “Stop Extremist Acts”.

“We’ve called this demonstration to show that Tunisia is a tolerant country which rejects fanaticism and to strengthen secularism in practice and in law,” blogger Sofiane Chourabi, 29, said.

Police stood by as military helicopters circled overhead.

Earlier Saturday the Tunisian authorities and the country’s main Islamist movement denounced the murder of the priest who was found dead in the country with his throat slit. Marek Rybinski, 34, was found dead Friday in the garage of the private religious school in the Manouba region near the capital where he was responsible for the accounting.

“The ministry of religious affairs condemns this criminal act and calls on all men of religion and civil society to act with determination to prevent such acts happening again,” the ministry said in a statement carried by news agency TAP…

And then there’s this:

Nearly 100 Egyptians have arrived in Italy in two boats, international migration officials said Wednesday, as fears rose about a wave of people trying to reach Europe because of turmoil in the Arab world…More than 5,330 Tunisians have already arrived the Italian island of Lampedusa, off the coast of Africa.

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Here Come The Bolsheviks

Count me unsurprised by this:

Tunisia’s underground Islamic movement has emerged at the forefront of nationwide protests against its leadership and appears set to emerge as the strongest political force in elections. Al-Nadha is lead by the London-based exile Rachid Ghannouchi who has said that he will return to the country as soon as the threat of life in prison is lifted.

Mr Ghannouchi has the best claims to an electoral following in Tunisia after the disintegration of the ruling party. He has wide core support at the country’s universities and his followers secured 17 per cent in 1989’s election – an unrivalled following in Tunisia’s rigged electoral system.

Senior lieutenants of the fundamentalist leader were yesterday prominent in the thousands strong crowd that demanded the resignation of all ministers – including Prime Minister Mohammed Ghanouchi – tainted by service to ousted dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Sadouk Chourou, a Tunis lawyer, has been seen organising groups within the protest. Ali Laraiedh, the Al-Nadha vice president, said that party activists of the banned movement had been mobilised.

While repeating the group’s message, he gives only guarded signals about the agenda the group would pursue if it tastes power. Mr met with the prime minister during the week to set out Al-Nadha’s demands.

“The people have not yet achieved everything they could have done. We want a government that is able to make a democracy and that means the prime minister must go,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It is too early to talk about what happens after the election but we will move like other Islamic parties, just that we will be a little more emancipated.”

The operative word, I suspect, is “little”.

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After the revolution

Here’s an interesting point in relation to Tunisia:

…The protesters came together after circulating calls to rally over social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Many were unemployed college graduates, and they angrily demanded more jobs and denounced what they called the self-enrichment of Tunisia’s ruling family….

There will be no jobs. Many Arab countries have autarkic economics where good white collar jobs come from the government. Petro-states can fund these jobs through revenues which gush in during commodity booms. Tunisia is not a petro-state. In a modern economy only the private sector can drive real growth. Without reforms this revolution will sour.

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