A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tunisia's Crackdown on Ansar al-Shari‘a

Over the past week the Tunisian government has pursued a active campaign against the Salafi Ansar al-Shari‘a movement, having moved to break up the movement's attempt to hold its annual conference in Kairouan, Tunisia's historic religious center. After clashes between the movement and security forces, the government arrested hundreds, though some of these were subsequently released.
The government, dominated by  the Al-Nahda (Annahda) Party, itself moderate Islamist, has in the past been accused of being soft on some radical Salafi movements, but that is clearly no longer the case. The government has declared Ansar al-Shari‘a an illegal organization, blocked its meeting in Kairouan, and claimed that some plotters arrested for planning terrorist attacks had links to the movement.

The clashes in Kairouan between authorities and followers of the movement appear to mark a new determination on the part of the government to check the growing assertiveness of Ansar al-Shari‘a, a Salafi movement sometimes described as a jihadi movement.

Adding to the explosiveness of the situation last week in Kairouan, during the confrontation Femen activist Amina Tyler was arrested in Kairouan, allegedly for planning to disrobe in front of the Ansar al-Shari‘a.

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