News / Africa

    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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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?

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora