A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tunisia's Al-Nahda: No Shari‘a Clause in Constitution

As the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt flexes its muscles with talk of running a Presidential candidate and controlling the writing of the Constitution, Tunisia's Al-Nahda (Ennahda) Movement is taking a different tack, declining to support efforts to insert a clause in the Constitution that would declare Shari‘a the major source of legislation. Al-Nahda has long said that it is content with the existing first article, which declares that the religion of the state is Islam and its language is Arabic.

Reaffirming the "Arab Muslim identity" clause gives centrality to the role of Islam in Tunisian identity without writing Shari‘a into the constitution, and is in keeping with Al-Nahda's efforts so far to maintain peace with secular parties in the highly Westernized country, while more extreme Salafi groups are agitating for a Shari‘a clause. The "Arab Islamic identity" formula is generally uncontroversial in Tunisia, which lacks has only a small Jewish population and no real indigenous Christian population. Though Amazigh/Berber activists would prefer to downplay the "Arabic" identity, retaining the existing clause is clearly the line of least resistance.


David Mack said...

Another example of how well An-Nahda continues to perform. It shares the national instinct for moderation with some other key Tunisian leaders, notably the military command and former transitional president, Baiji Qaid Es-Sebsi. In many respects, Ben Ali was an exception to the historic Tunisian political style.

Radwan Masmoudi said...

I agree with Mike and David. This is another reason why it is so important that Tunisia succeeds and why the US, the EU, and the International community as a whole needs to do a lot more to support Tunisia's transition to a real and genuine democracy, particularly though economic assistance, which it desperately needs to create jobs and hope for a better future for the unemployed and restless youth.