Gender segregated dining comes to Tunisia

Article Summary
A new restaurant in Sousse, Tunisia, has a separate area for female diners, raising fears of growing Islamist influence in the country.

First, it was the schools that were reserved for Salafists and fundamentalists. Then, Islamic banks appeared for those who want their money to be handled in accordance with Islamic law. Now, Salafists and "true Muslims" have their own restaurants with a space dedicated to women wearing the niqab [full veil], where they can eat separately while enjoying the privacy provided by wooden screens.

In an interview with Zitouna TV, which “unveiled” the situation, the restaurant owner confessed that “the idea came up as quick as a wink.” Let us not be too hard on the owner, however. After all, he is only riding a wave that brought victory to one party in the elections! Still, public opinion and customer feedback about this restaurant are most interesting. Faced with this reality, you can either cry or laugh. There is no third reaction.

One of the restaurant's customers said that he found “psychological serenity” in it, because it does not allow the sexes to mix. One might conclude that this poor man is disturbed since, as soon as he spots a woman less than 10 meters [32.8 feet] from him, his “psychological serenity” is compromised.

Other customers asserted that the restaurant is a “blessing from Allah.” They explained that they had tried several times to dine with their wives in public, but they found no place where they could eat in peace.

One of the clients interviewed offered high-level analysis. According to him, this is the only restaurant where you can sit in a corner because, obviously, all other restaurants in Tunisia are built in a circle-like space. That same genius added that a veiled woman can remove her veil without thinking twice because she is with her family — a family that is by no means transportable to any of the circle-like restaurants in Tunisia.

Without doubt, a journalist writing about the restaurant could not fail to interview a woman wearing the niqab. The woman said that she had long been deprived of the pleasure of eating out. She has regained this pleasure, however, thanks to the newly opened restaurant, where she can sit in tranquility, hidden behind panels made of bad wood while wrapped up in her niqab. She could go on and on about this! In other restaurants, she literally cannot lift her niqab to eat.

The intelligence award undoubtedly goes to the customer [interviewed] who said that a veiled woman or a woman wearing the niqab cannot be taken to a restaurant. This seems obvious to him since he believes that a woman in the niqab should not be going out in the first place! Why, then, can’t we allow her to go out to other restaurants? Well, because those restaurants are mixed! This spark of intelligence enlightened everyone present and emanated from the television. He continued, saying that in this restaurant, where he must certainly have stock, [one can] only hear the verses of the Quran and religious hymns. [One does] not hear things that should be avoided according to religion, that is, monkar. A piece by Chopin or a melody by Mozart are considered monkar. Does Islam demand avoiding them?

Our hero of the day wrapped up in style, stating that nonfundamentalists are also welcome in the restaurant because when they come, “their hearts will go tender,” and they will also wear the veil! Now that’s what I call conversion to true Islam by the almighty power of loubya [white beans] or tajine! The Salafist wisdom carried by the scent of slata machwiya [roasted pepper salad] and borghol. One can only try!

It goes without saying that an attractive waitress deals, exclusively, with women wearing the niqab. Religious studies have shown that a soup served by a man could contain the residue of sexual desire and that using cutlery touched by a man could lead straight to hell.

Joking aside, it would be useful to speak in this context of the dangers of bigotry and proselytism and to point out the danger of such separation for the cohesion of a society shaken by the revolution. Yet, we stand speechless before the ridicule of such an initiative and the comic aspect of its justifications. It is noteworthy that such precedent might lead to Islamic cafes and hotels or beaches reserved for women wearing the niqab and Salafists. Why wouldn’t it?

For fans of this restaurant, you should know that it is located in Sousse, and it is called “El Kolla Restaurant”— kolla meaning jar or jug in Arabic. It is no wonder then to find jugheads there.

Found in: women in society, women and islam, women, tunisia, salafism, islamization, gender segregation, gender discrimination

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