News / Africa

Fears Grow of Islamic Extremism in Tunisia

Fears Grow of Islamic Extremism in Tunisiai
X
February 18, 2013 11:29 PM
Tunisian opposition groups continue to blame the assassination of party leader Chokri Belaid on extremist Muslims known as Salafists. They accuse the ruling Ennahda party of encouraging religious violence - a charge the government denies. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing fear among moderate and secular Tunisians that extremism is on the rise.

Fears Grow of Islamic Extremism in Tunisia

Henry Ridgwell
Tunisian opposition groups continue to blame the assassination of party leader Chokri Belaid on extremist Muslims known as Salafists. They accuse the ruling Ennahda party of encouraging religious violence - a charge the government denies. But no matter who might be behind Belaid’s death, there is growing fear among moderate and secular Tunisians that extremism is on the rise.

Worshippers prayed and listened intently to the Friday's sermon among the ancient surrounds of the Al-Zaytuna mosque in Tunis last week.

In a traditionally secular country, Tunisia's mosques are at the heart of a debate over the extent of extreme religion in society.

Opposition groups blame Islamic extremists for the February 6 killing of party leader Chokri Belaid.

Organizations known as the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution are accused of carrying out an agenda of religious violence - attacking art galleries and harassing women who refuse to wear Islamic dress.

Many critics claim they are backed by the ruling Ennahda party.

It’s a charge Minister for Religious Affairs Laroussi Mizouri strongly denies.

Mizouri says the government condemns violence and any calls for violence. The vast majority of mosques in Tunisia are calling for unity, he says, as well as tolerance and the rejection of all kinds of discrimination and violence.  

But opposition groups point to videos posted on YouTube painting a different picture. One shows a preacher in the southern city of Zarzis calling for the head of Belaid. It was uploaded the day he was killed but its authenticity cannot be independently verified.

Ali Zeddini of the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights blames extremism on foreign influences.

Zeddini says Tunisians do not have a tradition of religious extremism. So the question of religion in Tunisia, he says, has never come up before. Zeddini says Tunisian people are a kind people, moderate, Mediterranean, and with a Malachite Islam which is tolerant and a long way from extremism.

Among the flags at a pro-Ennahda rally in Tunis Saturday were the distinctive black and white banners of the ultra-orthodox Salafists.

But rally organizer Bechir Khalfi says Ennahda is a tolerant party.

He says Tunisians want to build tomorrow's Tunisia together and do not want to exclude anyone, not the extreme left nor the extreme right. He says people want to build a Tunisia for all.

But critics of the government say they fear for their lives. The studios of TV channel El Hiwar El Tounsi were vandalized last year and equipment stolen. Company president and presenter Taher Ben Hassine, a well-known critic of Ennahda, says he fears he will meet the same fate as Belaid.

Hassine says he sent his wife and daughter to live in France because he knows extremists want to do something against him. He says he does not know when it will happen but has no doubt extremists want to harm him.

Tunisia's government says episodes of violence are symptomatic of a country in transition. Critics say that Islamic extremists are attempting to silence the opposition through intimidation and murder.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: The Hunter from: Cameroon
February 19, 2013 6:26 AM
The West must go back to the old tactics:install puppets in N.Africa and the M.East to stop the proliferation of jihadism and terrorism.

In Response

by: Phelix Miguta from: Kenya
February 19, 2013 3:58 PM
West Africa is the new theater for contest between the Western civilization and Islamic civilization. Will the disorganization in West Africa move snowball across the Sahara and merge with the chaos in Somalia so as to form the historic Islam caliphate?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid