jeudi 10 novembre 2011

Ennahda scandal: “Single mothers do not have the right to exist !”

Souad Abderrahim, Ennahda's head of list candidate in 
the Tunis 2 district.

A little more than two weeks after the election, a scandal has erupted within the Ennahda party. Last Tuesday, during a debate on the future of women’s rights in Tunisia, a very well known member of the Islamic party, Souad Abderrahim, expressed views that caused quite a stir. On air on radio Monte Carlo Doualya, she made numerous inflammatory declarations.

First, when questioned about the rights that single mothers should benefit from, Ms. Abderrahim stated that she was “surprised that we can debate such a topic in an Arab-Muslim society like Tunisia.” Then, during the conversation, she continued by saying that these women represent “a disgrace for Tunisia” and that “they shouldn’t have the right to exist.”

The Ennahda representative was responding to a proposal made by one of the participants in the interview whereby a legal framework should exist in Tunisia to protect the rights of single mothers. Strongly opposing the idea, Ms. Abderrahim considers having pre-marital sexual relations “a sin” and concluded by declaring that “there is no place in Tunisia for absolute liberty. Liberty must be respectful of religious beliefs.”

Nothing more was needed to incite commentary from outraged citizens on social networks like Facebook and Twitter and a petition was created. Articles by various bloggers also vigorously denounced Ms. Abderrahim’s statements. Here are three that grabbed most attention (in French):

1 – « Jolanare » : An open letter to Mrs Souad Abderrahim, who is Rahma by name only.

2 – « Bourkornine » : Souad Abderrahim Tunisia’s supper nanny.

3 – « Bidules Blog » : Open letter to Ms. Souad Abderrahim.  

In the article published on the « Bourkornine » blog, the author accurately relates that Ms. Abderrahim had previously expressed a somewhat controversial opinion on October 26th when she uttered “Ennahda doesn’t plan to close nightclubs but will put into practice proper moral behaviour”.

Let’s remember that Ms. Abderrahim was regularly showcased by Ennahda during the electoral campaign. In addition to being a woman candidate not wearing a veil, certain analysts said that she embodied “moderation” and “modernism” within the party, notably because of her militant past in the student union movement UGET (Student General Union of Tunisia). Ennahda’s top candidate repeated during the campaign that she is in a party that “will respect individual liberties”, promote a “moderate Islam” and that “nothing would be imposed by Ennahda.”

This outburst may considerably damage the Islamic party which up to now had managed to stay away from controversy. This is even more the case when considering that rumours had Ms. Abderrahim as Ennahda’s candidate for President of the Parliament.

Assuredly, this is ammunition for Ennahda’s many adversaries who have steadfastly declared for months that the party has a hidden religious agenda that will inevitably put restrictions on individual liberties. It’s in effect difficult to conclude that the party is “moderate” as its leaders say when important members hold such controversial opinions.

No one from Ennahda as reacted to the situation.

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