Rumors of Islamist Militant Camps in Tunisia

Article Summary
According to Barakat Shlatweh, rising violence is threatening human rights and public freedoms in Tunisia. Amidst rumors of Islamist militant training camps and a reactionary backlash against a recently-aired film, the author calls on Tunisians to resist violence and intolerance.

Over the last few weeks, violence in Tunisia has been threatening public freedoms, human rights and the goals of the revolution. This has been evidenced by the growing number of attacks on journalists, academics and intellectuals and by the increased pressure on the media and as a reaction to the statements made by the MPs of the Constituent Assembly majority. These statements do not herald a bright future for Tunisia. What’s more, statements made ​​by Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali revealed that he is choosing to publicly defy [the will of] Tunisians.

It would be wrong to forget the incident of the reporter working the Nasma channel who was spat on by a young Salafist a few days ago. It took place in front of the Palace of Justice in Tunis, prior to channel being put on trial for broadcasting a film [the French-Iranian production Persepolis] which [included an image] of the divine spirit.

The film was rejected outright and people were convinced that [the film] in no way representd freedom of expression. It disrespects religion and God Almighty. However, immoral acts [such as showing this film], which run contrary to the good morality with which Muslims are endowed [should not be banned]. [To do so] does not reflect a deep understanding of Islam, its message or its teachings.

Salafism means following the path of the beloved Mohammad, peace be upon him and his companions. It means following his approach to all of the religious and worldly affairs, be they minor or substantial. [This approach] does not apply to appearances only. In fact, Islam does not care much for appearances; Rather, it focuses on [faith], doctrine, soul purity, love values, tolerance, justice, equality and good will. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, says "God does not look at your photos and your body, but rather at your hearts and deeds.”

In addition to the above abuses committed by the Salafists against the backdrop of  the interim government’s deafening silence, there are discussions about the existence of Salafist weapon training camps in a region of the Bizerte Governorate. This raises fears of the emergence of an armed movement in Tunisia, which would jeopardize the achievements of the revolution and lead [Tunisia] down the path of Algeria, Iraq or Somalia where a lack of restrictions on radical ideas has spread corruption throughout the country.

On the other hand, statements made by Jebali have brought to mind the early days of the revolution, before the fall of Ben Ali. When he said that the wave of protests and sit-ins taking place in the country would not topple his government, he was [in effect inviting] Tunisians to meet this challenge. [Instead of provoking them], he should have [joined the protesters] and listened to their demands. He should have asked his government to start meeting as many of their demands as possible. Governments are [elected] to watch over the interests of the people. They are [elected to meet their obligations], not to be honored - as is the case now - especially considering that the newly-elected Islamic pledged [to cut its ties] with the deposed regime, achieve the demands of the revolution and preserve its achievements.

Tunisians must do the following: They must protect the revolution, resist violence and extremism, reject intellectual and religious intolerance, demand public freedoms, defend freedom of information and expression and ask for their human rights.

Found in: violence against moderates, violence, training camps, salafists, public freedoms, persepolis, media, intolerance, human rights, freedom of expression in tunisia, extremism, corruption, bizerte governorate, arab spring, arab

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