Tunisia Revolution: Security forces move to protect nation from Islamic zealots

February 21st, 2011 - 1:00 pm ICT by ANI  

Tunis (Tunisia), Feb.21 (ANI): With authoritarian rule coming to an end in Tunisia, the interim government is faced with a delicate situation in deciding the role of Islam in the nation’s politics.

Last week, tensions mounted when military helicopters and security forces were called in to protect the city’s brothels from Islamic zealots.Police officers had to disperse rock-throwing protesters who streamed into alleyways lined with legally sanctioned bordellos shouting, “God is great!” and “No to brothels in a Muslim country!”

Five weeks after protesters forced out the country’s dictator, President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisians are locked in a fierce and noisy debate about how far, or even whether, Islamism should be infused into the new government, the New York Times reports.

About 98 percent of the population of 10 million is Muslim, but Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes of the Arab world.

Abortion is legal, polygamy is banned and women commonly wear bikinis on the country’s Mediterranean beaches. Wine is openly sold in supermarkets and imbibed at bars across the country.

Women’s groups say they are concerned that in the cacophonous aftermath of the revolution, conservative forces could tug the country away from its strict tradition of secularism.

Protesters have held up signs saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”

There are fears that the country’s main Muslim political movement, Ennahdha, or Renaissance, which was banned under the Ben Ali dictatorship, is now regrouping.

In interviews in the Tunisian news media, Ennahdha’s leaders have taken pains to praise tolerance and moderation, comparing themselves to the Islamic parties that govern Turkey and Malaysia.

The party, which is allied with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, says it opposes the imposition of Islamic law in Tunisia.

But some Tunisians say they remain unconvinced.

Raja Mansour, a bank employee in Tunis, said it was too early to tell how the Islamist movement would evolve.

Ennahdha is one of the few organized movements in a highly fractured political landscape.

The caretaker government that has managed the country since Ben Ali was ousted is fragile and weak, with no clear leadership emerging from the revolution.

The uprising that set off demonstrations across the Arab World, has since evolved into numerous daily protests by competing groups, a development that many Tunisians find unsettling.

“Freedom is a great, great adventure, but it’s not without risks,” said Fathi Ben Haj Yathia, an author and former political prisoner. “There are many unknowns.” (ANI)

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