A Tunisian Muslim Feminist & Islamist Party Candidate: "We are not Salafists"

News article, posted 10.23.2011, from Tunisia, in:
Ramses Kefi
A Tunisian Muslim Feminist & Islamist Party Candidate: "We are not Salafists" (Photo: Rue89)

Summary: Mehrezia Labidi, Muslim feminist and Ennadha candidate in Paris, explains her allegiance to the Tunisian Islamist party and why Ennahdha should inspire neither fear nor comparisons with often violent Salafi movements.

When questioned about the "apprehension of certain Tunisian women if Ennahdha were to be elected," Labidi replies, "Do you think that Tunisians made the revolution to turn back the clock [revenir en arrière]? That Tunisian women will accept that we put into question their rights? Islam consecrates parity, not patriarchy. That, Ennahdha has understood."

Labidi also asserts that her fellow Tunisians, living near her in Paris, "do not fear a Islamist-majority Constituent [Assembly]," saying, "They have known me for years. I am a woman of open-mindedness [femme d'ouverture] and of dialogue. Some of them ask me for guarantees on the future. I reply that they are the guarantee, as they guarantee the future democracy."

Labidi also asserts that Ennahdha has a "realistic political program" and that it is not a single-issue party, focusing solely on religion. Labidi describes her own membership with Ennahdha as based on a shared principle: "We want to put religion at the service of progress."

Labidi judges deposed  president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali as responsible for the "Fundamentalist/Ennahdha amalgam." Labidi also links this amalgam to the recent Salafi occupation of an ancient Christian Basilica in Western Tunisia. "National education under Ben Ali did not create citizens," Labidi says. "That basilica is our history. These Salafists are often very young. Do you think that they know the meaning of a patrimony? We [Ennahdha] are not Salafists."

Labidi also condemns the violence wrought by a group of Salafists against the Nessma TV channel following their broadcast of the controversial French-Iranian film, Persepolis, in which an image of God is shown. Labidi also, however, denounces the TV station for knowingly broadcasting something that "would shock Tunisians, of whom a majority as Muslim." She demurs on the question of censorship, suggesting that such questions be left up to a independent committee.

Born in Northeastern Tunisia, Labidi came to Paris in 1986 to study at the Sorbonne.  She is currently the co-president of the World Council of Religions of Peace, a international, multifaith association for the protection of women's rights.

Original Language Text: 

En français, « Ennahdha » signifie renaissance. Pour ses militants, le parti islamiste n'a sûrement jamais aussi bien porté son nom. Combattu et réprimé sous Ben Ali, il est donné large vainqueur pour l'élection de la prochaine assemblée constituante, prévue le 23 octobre.

A Paris, comme d'autres partis tunisiens, Ennahdha est actif. A la clé, les 10 sièges (sur 217) dévolus aux 500 000 Tunisiens de France. Sur l'une des deux listes que présente le mouvement, Mehrezia Labidi, 48 ans.

Traductrice, écrivain et militante associative, Mehrezia Labidi se définit comme une « féministe musulmane ». Elle n'est pas encartée au Parti, mais quand elle l'évoque, elle parle d'une convergence d'idées :

« Nous voulons mettre la religion au service du progrès. »


[Excerpt—See accompanying URL for full original text]