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Ed Webb

Human Rights Watch Condemns Controversial Defamation Bill : Tunisia Live - News, Econom... - 0 views

  • a new bill that would ban blasphemy in Tunisia. The draft bill, proposed to the Constituent Assembly on Wednesday by Tunisia’s ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahdha, would criminalize “insults, profanity, derision, and representation of Allah and Mohammed.”
  • ” If passed, the draft law would punish such violations of “sacred values” with prison terms of up to two years and fines of up to 2,000 dinars (U.S. $1,236) through an additional article to the Tunisian Penal Code.
  • Mrad justified the bill’s proposal by explaining that the protection of religious symbols does not inherently represent an attack on freedom of expression. “In all societies, you will always find limits and things that you cannot say,” he said, adding, “We [Ennahdha] are committed to granting freedom of expression, but this law is just to set limits for this freedom.”
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  • General Comment 34, a statement issued by the UN Human Rights Committee in July of 2011 stating that defamation of religion is not an acceptable reason for limiting freedoms of speech. According to paragraph 48 of the declaration, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant, except in specific circumstances…” Such “specific circumstances” include cases in which national or individual security is deemed to be threatened.
  • Although the country lacks laws criminalizing blasphemy, Article 121.3 of Tunisia’s penal code – which criminalizes disruptions that “harm public order or morality” – has been used to convict individuals found guilty of acts that could be perceived as attacks against Islam.
  • A prosecutor in Tunisia can prosecute on the basis of these two laws together and can add to the sentence. We have seen this in other countries, in other contexts.
Ed Webb

Thug violence vs. Salafist violence - do definitions really matter? | Kefteji - 0 views

  • The government has said that it will take steps to control violent movements on many occasions, but oftentimes this has felt like lip-service. While a planned secular protest against violence was called off by the interior ministry, a jihadist one was allowed. The government ordered the art gallery in La Marsa to be closed after last week’s events but  had allowed an illegal sit-in by conservatives to go on for almost three months at the state television station. A conflict at the Manouba university over niqabs has been left to fester for an entire academic year because the government has decided not to intervene – leaving the university to solve the problem.
  • When a preacher at Zitouna mosque, an important mosque and center of Islamic theology called on the assasination of the artists responsible for the offending artwork, the Ministry of Religious Affairs called for his sacking. Yet just today reports have said that the preacher will not in fact be sacked. The government has yet to release a clear statement on the matter.
  • While physical violence has been rare, and the country remains comparatively safe, an environment of threats of violence has been left to fester while the intimidation has been met with little challenge from the state, and sometimes denial of well-documented events.
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  • an intellectual space has been opened in Tunisia for those hoping to instill their conservative values on society. This space allows sexist thugs to harass women, violent gangs to team up with religious extremists, and preachers to foster hatred among their followers – no matter whether their theological beliefs correspond to one of the many Salafist worldviews
  • I appreciate the efforts of those who have called out the press for their wanton use of the term Salafist. The use of specific theological terminology for a heterogeneous group does little to clarify the situation. Nevertheless, in order to be intellectually honest, one must also admit that extremist violence is not always committed by extremists. Where hateful ideas are allowed to fester (and sometimes encouraged), hateful actions will follow – regardless of the actors’ beliefs.
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