samedi 15 octobre 2011


It’s been eight days now since Nessma TV broadcast the Franco-Iranian film Persépolis that criticizes Islam and presents God in a human form, which is against Islamic law.

As I was saying in two of the previous articles (here and here), there have been many protests across the country in response to the film. These don’t seem to be over yet since protestors took over Kasbah Place yesterday. Some even attacked the house of the station's director, Nabil Karoui. Luckily, he wasn’t home when they showed up. More on these incidents here.

The Nessma TV incident has unfortunately been made into a forefront issue in this electoral campaign, ahead of other pressing matters. Religion is a very sensitive issue in Tunisia, as well as in all other Arab countries.

There is also a debate as to whether or not to include, in the first amendment of the new Constitution, a statement making Islam the official religion. Most parties are in favor of it as long as there is also a separate amedment that guarantees freedom of religion. Nothing new here, many democratic countries (Canada, USA) use the same formula with little difficulties.

As important as this topic is, it does not deserve all the media coverage and political attention it is getting. According to controversial muslim intellectual and philosopher, professor Tariq Ramadan, there is a serious risk of polarizing the debate. ‘‘The polarization trap works’’ he says, ‘‘if we listen to the current debates in Tunisia we can clearly see an ideological polarization occurring. This could lead us to being quite counter-productive even to the point of paralysis. It's either we are atheist or Islamic, no in between. We should be focusing our attention to more important issues like education, economy and poverty.’’ Here’s the full video (in French) :

There is little time left before the vote, less than a week if you consider that campaigning must stop on October 21st at midnight. From here on out, let's just hope that protests about the Nessma TV incident cease to be the focus of most of the media’s attention.

The election of the Constituent Assembly started after a historic and courageous revolution that was lead in the name of individual liberties, democracy and a better economic outlook (less corruption, unemployment, etc.). Protests have led to Islamists and atheists working together towards these issues. It would be a terrible shame that topics that the people (and parties) did not fight for a few moths ago now become a reason to divide them just before the elections.

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