Wednesday, March 7, 2012
by Amna Guellali
(Amna Guellali is the Tunisia and Algeria researcher at Human Rights Watch)
"Freedom of expression has become a battleground in post-revolution Tunisia. Debate is already raging at the National Constituent Assembly over a draft constitution put forward by the Islamist Ennahdha party that includes an article stating, “Freedom of thought, expression, press, and publication are guaranteed while taking into consideration the sanctities of peoples and religions.”
This debate has implications for all of the countries experiencing the ‘Arab spring’. But there have been recent echoes of the same issues in western capitals as well. Meanwhile in Tunisia, the flag of freedom of expression has often been waved when politically convenient and forgotten when it isn’t.
A visit in February by the Egyptian cleric Wajdi Ghounim, notorious for his fatwa supporting the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), widened the rift between secularists and Islamists. Invited by three Tunisian nongovernmental organizations, Ghounim gave sermons around the country in which he equated secularists to enemies of Islam. On the airwaves of Radio Mosaïque FM, he said that FGM, while not compulsory, is a practice encouraged by Islamic scholars for “medical reasons” and likened it to “cosmetic surgery.” “Every person who does not abide by the law of God,” Ghounim said on Mosaïque, “is an apostate.”...."