These Tunisian Islamists that Say No To Shariah

Analysis, posted 03.30.2012, from Tunisia, in:
These Tunisian Islamists that Say No To Shariah

Summary: Following a number of tension-filled and occasionally violent pro-Shariah demonstrations, the leading Tunisian Islamist party Ennahdha has declared itself against any mention of Shariah law in the constitution.  The Le Monde editorial board praises this move by Ennahdha as its "first act of a true government party." In doing so, the board continues, "Ennahdha has preferred reality to ideology; it has behaved as a responsible group; it took the risk of confrontation with a party of the Islamist family. It privileged state empiricism to sectarian purity."

The editorial further recognizes that "it is about time that Ennahdha take a position" on the topic. "For several months, a small tens of thousands of Salafi militants - who preach the most radical versions of political Islam - multiply their [acts of] violence and provocations. On some campuses, they aggress non-veiled women. They prevent cultural events. They hold giant prayers in the beautiful center of the capital, where one of their rallying cries: 'Death to the Jews!'"

The board reasons that "Ennahdha smelled the danger. This Islam is profoundly foreign to Tunisians, and even more so to Tunisian women. Even those women who vote for Ennahdha, and many did so, remain attached to the Personal Status Code."  And Ennahdha further knows, the board imagines, that a radicalized Tunisia would scare away "tourists and foreign investments" and "would put Tunisia on the verge of failure."

The Salafist demonstrations did produce one sure result, the editorial notes, which is to have pushed Ennahdha to respond, and Ennahdha "responded with courage."

The board also praises Tunisia as a "model country," who has long had one of the region's most progressive constitutions.