Tunisia’s Close Call
Recent demonstrations by salafists in Tunisia have taken a violent turn highlighting lingering issues in the country: the importance of creating a mechanism of dialogue between the different religious and political factions in the country. Though Tunisia is widely considered one of the most liberal countries in the Arab World, conservative forces have, since the revolution, become increasingly powerful. Differing interpretations of what Tunisian values are have led to spikes in violence, and the current government has been reluctant to take a strong stance on the matter. The potential cost of allowing disagreement to foment is great, as instability could continue to increase, hindering the social and economic well-being of the country further. For those who lived in Tunisia during its revolutionary days, last week was a déja vu. Violent protests led to injuries and one fatality, curfews were put in place, and a general malaise pervaded throughout the country.
The curfew had been imposed earlier in the week following violent riots by Salafist groups over an art exhibition that was deemed insulting to Islam. Concerns increased when the moderate Islamist leader, Ghannouchi, called on those who supported the values of the revolution and of Islam to protest following Friday’s prayers. Additional conflict was avoided at the last minute, as the Ministry of the Interior refused to issues licenses to the protests organizers. Fortunately, everyone’s worst fears were avoided, but it was certainly a close call. (...)