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Ed Webb

Tunisia Navigates a Democratic Path Tinged With Religion - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • “We’re surrendering our right to think and speak differently,”
  • The popular revolts that began to sweep across the Middle East one year ago have forced societies like Tunisia’s, removed from the grip of authoritarian leaders and celebrating an imagined unity, to confront their own complexity.
  • “It’s like a war of attrition,” said Said Ferjani, a member of Ennahda’s political bureau, who complained that his party was trapped between two extremes, the most ardently secular and the religious. “They’re trying not to let us focus on the real issues.”
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  • debates in Tunisia often echo similar confrontations in Turkey, another country with a long history of secular authoritarian rule now governed by a party inspired by political Islam. In both, secular elites long considered themselves a majority and were treated as such by the state. In both, those elites now recognize themselves as minorities and are often mobilized more by the threat than the reality of religious intolerance
  • secular Tunisians might soon retreat to enclaves. “We’ve become the ahl al-dhimma,” he said, offering a term in Islamic law to denote protected minorities in a Muslim state. “It’s like the Middle Ages.”
  • Others insisted that Ennahda take a stronger stand against the Salafis before society became even more polarized. “I don’t see either action or reaction — where is the government?” asked Ahmed Ounaïes, a former diplomat who briefly served as foreign minister after the revolution. “What is Ennahda’s concept of Tunisia of tomorrow? It hasn’t made that clear.”
  • He complained that the case had been “blown out of proportion,” that media were recklessly fueling the debate and that the forces of the old government were inciting Salafis to tarnish Ennahda. But he conceded that the line between freedom of expression and religious sensitivity would not be drawn soon. “The struggle is philosophical,” he said, “and it will go on and on and on.”
Ed Webb

Tunisian Islamists show strength at chief's return - Yahoo! News - 0 views

  • The reception for Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party, at Tunis airport was the biggest showing by the Islamists in two decades, during which thousands of them were jailed or exiled by president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali
  • The Islamists were Tunisia's strongest opposition force at the time Ben Ali cracked down on them in 1989 but are thought not to have played a leading role in the popular revolt.
  • A group of men performed prayers on a grass verge, a scene unthinkable in Tunisia just a few weeks ago
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  • Ennahda likens its ideology to that of Turkey's ruling AK Party, saying it is committed to democracy. Experts on political Islam say its ideas are some of the most moderate among Islamist groups
  • Asked how they had managed to organize so quickly, one activist said: "Our activities were stopped, but you can't disperse an ideology."
  • A handful of secularists turned up at the airport to demonstrate against the party, holding up a placard reading: "No Islamism, no theocracy, no Sharia and no stupidity!" Ennahda and its supporters say they do not seek an Islamic state and want only the right to participate in politics. "We want a democratic state," said Mohammed Habasi, an Ennahda supporter who said he had been jailed four times since 1991 for "belonging to a banned group." "We suffered the most from a lack of democracy," he said
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