Tunisia Squashes 'Arab Spring' Delusions

Tunisia’s “Liberal” MP: “Single Mothers Have No Right to Exist”

A variation of the theme:  

“women are deficient in intelligence and religion, and it is not permissible for them to be in authority…”

 by Anna Mahjar-Barducci/Hudson New York

Souad Abderrahim — one of the most prominent and controversial feminine figure of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, a mother of two, and a pharmacist by profession — was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly. During the electoral campaign, she represented the modern image of Ennahda: she does not wear a veil. “We are not going to reinstate polygamy and we will not impose the veil to women,” she used to say in answer to the worries expressed by Tunisian women and secularists.

However, last November 9th on Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, Abderrahim created a controversy when she said that single mothers are a disgrace to Tunisia and “do not have the right to exist.” She added that, “I am ashamed of Arab and Muslim countries that try to make excuses for people who have sinned.” She insisted that only rape victims should be entitled to protection under the law, but not single mothers. She also stated that laws in Tunisia should be based on Arab-Muslim traditions, and that in Tunisia “there is no room for full and absolute freedom.”

In Tunisia, on the average, four babies a day are born out of wedlock, yet Souad Aberrahim denies the existence of one-parent families. For her, within a Muslim society, “family should not be formed outside of marriage.”

Souad Abderrahim recently gave an interview to Algerian daily El Watan, where she presented herself and her political credo:

“Ennahda doesn’t speak in the name of Islam, there is a program and it defines itself not as a religious party, but as a party with a religious reference,” she said, “It is in favor of civil rights and of ijtihad [ijtihad is a technical term of the Islamic law and means the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the sources of the law, the Quran and the Sunna]. Wearing a veil is not compulsory, it is a personal matter, I myself am not veiled,”she went on, adding that “for us, secularism does not mean a total breaking-off with religion. We don’t want religion to dominate the State, but we also don’t want religion to be dominated by the state.”

However, answering questions on whether she would like to retain the law concerning the personal status, she said that:

“[Ennahda] would like to change the article concerning adoption, because it is not in line with the Muslim religion.”

Then, on answering whether she thought there should be equality for men and women concerning inheritance, as some feminists are suggesting, she again brought up religious explanations, despite the fact that she claimed that Ennahda does not speak in the name of Islam. Further, she said that there is a sort of Western plot to adbicate equal rights in terms of inheritance, something that she apparently does not want to happen, as would entail a secular reform.

“In the Koran there is a very clear verse on this subject. Feminist associations that are requesting full equality regarding to inheritance are only a minority and do not represent Tunisian women. This is not a request coming from the Tunisian public. It is a project of Western, French, inspiration. Ennahda is in favor of men and women complementing each other in partnership,”she said.

When the interviewer asked her as a last question how she saw the future of Tunisia, she replied:

“It will be Arab and Muslim. Its engine will be a modern Islam. Previously, political projects were imported from France, such as total freedom for women and support for single mothers. In our society, we cannot defend unmarried mothers or the child that carries his mother’s name. This is not in conformity with our Tunisian identity. Some other parties are raising false problems. I defend freedom of expression in the framework of the permanent features and social values of Tunisia, which are not necessarily Muslim, but when it comes to placing the statue of a naked woman on a public square my answer is no! [Souad Abderrahim makes an allusion to the proposal of an artist who intended to place the statue of a naked woman in Habib Bourghiba square] I am against radicalism. […]”

How ironic that, after giving an extremist, radical speech, Abderrahim thinks of herself as a liberal — and, like many self-described liberals who do not even realize how totalitarian and intolerant of any dissenting opinion they have become (“a fish does not know he is wet”) — announces that she is “against radicalism.”


2 thoughts on “Tunisia Squashes 'Arab Spring' Delusions”

  1. Our clueless Guardian (s)

    The Guardian’s Brian Whittaker Shocked by Tunisia’s “Discriminatory New Constitution”

    Alan A, December 12th 2011, Harry’s Place

    Tunisia’s Constituent Assembly, dominated by the “Moderate Islamist Party” Ennahda, has adopted a mini-constitution.

    Here’s the Financial Times:

    Tunisia’s newly elected parliament pushed through a provisional constitution over the weekend intended to give the assembly broad powers to govern the country and reform the bureaucracy, despite opposition from secular opponents.

    A coalition led by the moderate Islamist Nahda party pushed through measures that would allow a cabinet formed and ratified by the parliament to govern and even reshape institutions during an interim period while it draws up a constitution.

    Sadly, you have to read Al Jazeera to find out something that the Financial Times didn’t think worth reporting:

    Under the provisional constitution, the president must be “exclusively Tunisian, of the Muslim religion“, the child of Tunisian parents and at least 35 years old.

    This is what Ennahda had to say:

    When asked about the exclusion of non-Muslims [Nejib Gharbi] referenced the overwhelming Muslim character of Tunisia. “Islam is the religion of the majority of Tunisians, and the official religion of Tunisia is Islam. It is normal for the president of the country to be Muslim.”

    Brian Whittaker is unimpressed:

    Even so, it’s a regrettable step – especially at a time when the Islamist Ennahda party, which won the largest block of seats in the assembly, is trying to convince the world of its commitment to freedom and tolerance.

    In a real democracy, running for the presidency should be open to any adult citizen. Using the constitution to impose other requirements is wrong in principle. It limits voters’ choice (sometimes with specific “undesirable” candidates in mind) and implies that the electorate is not to be trusted – that if given half a chance voters would choose someone who is unsuitable for the job.

    It is also wrong in principle to stipulate that presidential candidates must belong to any particular religion.

    The Financial Times (one of the few western newspapers to report on this issue) quotes an earlier statement from Ennahda saying that members of Tunisia’s (tiny) Jewish community “are citizens enjoying all their rights and duties.” In the light of the new constitutional document, that is clearly not the case.

    Ennahda is believed to be moderate in the West, simply because no British newspaper publishes the information that indicates that this is not the case.

    Perhaps the Guardian will be the first to note the discriminatory nature of Tunisia’s new mini constitution. We’ll see.


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