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Ed Webb

Tunisia's Dying Jazz | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • Bidali is one of the last living practitioners of stambeli, a uniquely Tunisian hybrid of musical genre, healing practice, and religious ceremony. It’s deeply rooted in the history of a specific community: the descendants of slaves brought to the region from sub-Saharan Africa during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It also has close links to Sufism, an ancient form of Islamic mysticism that uses music, dance, and rhythm to induce trance-like states that are supposed to bring listeners closer to the essence of the divine
  • President Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first postcolonial leader, gave state support to many forms of art, but stambeli wasn’t among them; it didn’t fit the modern image of the country he was trying to shape
  • while subsequent police crackdowns have landed Salafists of all stripes in jail, some of the trends they promoted, such as moral self-policing and austere interpretations of Islamic cultural heritage, have taken root in society. With its unorthodox religious associations, stambeli has found itself in the firing line
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  • because of the rising influence of orthodox interpretations of the faith, stambeli artists are careful to stress the monotheistic, Islamic essence of their practice
  • The origins of stambeli music resemble those of American jazz (even though the two genres don’t sound alike). In both cases, the musical traditions of former slaves combined with the diverse cultural influences of their new environments to create something radically new. Whereas slaves arriving in Louisiana mixed their music and practices with European, Caribbean, and American ingredients, slaves arriving in Tunis during the same period fused their animist practices with North African versions of mystical Sufism and orthodox Islam. Mounir Argui, a theater director and music producer who works with Bidali, says that the metal castanets that play such a prominent role in stambeli performances evoke “the sounds of chains and shackles” that the slaves once wore, while the chanting recalls the “moaning.”
  • the Tunisian state never prioritized the preservation of stambeli, focusing instead on the art and culture it considered highbrow
  • Many Tunisians see stambeli as an alien phenomenon associated with blacks, who are already widely viewed as not quite Tunisian. In post-revolutionary Tunisia, where asserting the Islamic character of the country has become an important political symbol for some, the pagan origins of stambeli also cause suspicion
  • As long as some Tunisians continue to see freedom of religion and freedom of art as mutually exclusive, the rare traditions like stambeli that manage to straddle both will find little space
Ed Webb

Constitution Calls for 'Neutralilty' of Mosques, but Meaning Unclear - Tunisia Live - 0 views

  • Rumors circulated this weekend that the Friday sermon in Tunisian mosques would soon be standardized by the government, meaning all preachers would read the same text to their congregations, and that political figures would be prohibited from delivering sermons. Officials at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, however, denied that these policies were being implemented.
  • The newly-adopted Tunisian constitution, which was formally adopted last week, not only “protects religion” and “guarantees freedom of belief and conscience,” but also guarantees the political neutrality of the roughly 5,000 mosques in Tunisia. “The state [...] ensures the neutrality of mosques and places of worship away from partisan instrumentalization,” according to Article 6 of the new constitution. This constitutionalized political neutralization of mosques is meant to “limit the interference of strangers in mosques,” Fadhel Achour, president of the National Union of Religious Officials, told Tunisia Live. His union represents clergy working in Tunisia’s mosques.
  • Mghiri oversees the Ministry of Religious Affairs’ Monitoring and Following Commission, which monitors Tunisian mosques. The commission receives petitions from citizens, follows up with them, and collaborates with the Ministry of Interior to curb what Mghiri deemed the “Salafist exploitation” of mosques and to prevent calls for violence in mosques. He also said that imams cannot directly tell those in attendance whom to vote for. Mghiri told Tunisia Live that different people from varied backgrounds gather in mosques and that telling these people for whom they should vote is not only illegal, but also not wise and does not comply with the canonical laws of Islam.
Ed Webb

Tunisian Ministry of Religious Affairs to Increase Control of Mosque Activites : Tunisi... - 0 views

  • There are four different positions in Tunisian mosques assigned by the ministry: a daily prayer imam, a Friday imam, a person to perform the call to prayer, and someone who maintains the building
  • some parties have attempted to assign imams affiliated with their parties in order to influence masses. “Our ministry chose to remain silent over such issues in the beginning. Now we are taking a more strict approach,” he added. The ministry will closely monitor sermons at mosques and will be swift and fair in their punishment of offenders, he said.
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