» 06/16/2012, 00.00
TUNISIA - ISLAM
Oasis in Tunisia: the unfinished revolution and its future
Tunisia, the most secularized Arab country, after the success of "Jasmine Revolution", is facing the danger of Salafi Islam, also bankrolled by al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The struggle between different kinds of Islam and the place that religion should have in a modern and pluralistic society. The concerns of Christian minorities. The pragmatism of the West.
Rome (AsiaNews) - The scientific committee of Oasis, the magazine about Christian-Muslim dialogue founded by Card. Angelo Scola, meets this year in Tunis on 18 and 19 June to try to understand the emerging trends of the "Jasmine Revolution" that began in Tunisia and spread among the Arab dictatorships, breaking up old balances and opening new tensions and problems.
More than 50 personalities from around the world - academics, bishops, experts, journalists - will meet in the capital for a series of testimonies, studies, discussions on the theme: "Religion in a society in transition. Tunisia calls upon the West."
The relevancy of the theme is evident from the way the Arab revolutions are evolving. What first begin as a "revolt for dignity" to demand labor, human rights, justice, democracy, have gradually been taken over or endangered by fundamentalist Salafi Islam, shaking the same liberal forces that set the change in motion.
Tunisia is the clearest symbol of this long labor: after the self-immolation of Muhammad Bouazizi, the spark that set off the revolt, and the ouster of dictator Ben Ali (who fled to Saudi Arabia), the most secularized country in the Arab world now finds itself faced with a revival of fundamentalist Islam, which previously was outlawed. The elections - which saw the participation of 80% of the population, a first in the nation's history - led to the victory of Islamists under the banner of the Ennhada party and Salafis. The latter fight to force women to wear headscarves and to re-write the constitution, making sharia the basic law. Ennhada has a more moderate position and rejects the more extreme aspects of Sharia law and Islam, perhaps due to concerns about the economic consequences that these choices may have on tourism and trade.
Earlier this week, the Salafis attacked an art exhibition in La Marsa where they claimed the works were "blasphemy" against Islam, burning some. Police arrested 50 Salafis, accusing them of terrorism. One day later, on June 13 last, a military court sentenced in absentia Ben Ali to 20 years in prison. Fearful of Islamist unrest or tensions created by the former regime, the government declared a curfew from 21 to 5 am. The curfew was lifted today.
But the problems remain and centre around what place Islam should have in a modern and pluralistic society. The Tunisian Salafists, for example, also see trade unions and Communists as enemies, considered "atheists" and unfit to live in the Muslim world. Thus, the "Jasmine Revolution" is opening the way for a debate and a clash between different types of Islam.
The Tunis meeting will include testimonies from several Ennhada personalities, as well as reports from some scholars from other Muslim countries, on the influence of the "Jasmine Revolution" in their region.
The place of religion and Islam in society also concerns Christian minorities. At first suspicious of the revolution, they became its supporters, before giving way to concern about the Islamist future that lies ahead. They claim a place for religion in society - as opposed to a secular or secularist liberalism, present in the West - but at the same time demand guarantees for them and for every minority, with a right to full citizenship in building society. At this point, is the much-anticipated speech of Mgr. Maroun Lahham, former Archbishop of Tunis, recently appointed Latin Patriarchal Vicar in Jordan.
A portion of the meeting will be dedicated to the position taken by the West, dominated by economic pragmatism and prepared, in the name of stability, to leave room for a fundamentalist Middle East (see the cases of Libya and Syria), while pursuing a policy of exclusion of religion at home.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar (uninvited) will also star at the meeting, which - having stifled the Jasmine Revolution at home - are funding fundamentalist Islam in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. It is no coincidence that the Salafi attacks earlier this week started immediately after an appeal by Al Zawahiri, leader of al Qaeda, calling on Muslims to fight for Tunisians to implement sharia in the country.
An "ambiguous" Arab Spring and a "squalid" West
The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa give rise to hopes, but also to fears of an military or fundamentalist involution. The Churches of Tunisia and Egypt want to live alongside the entire population. The debate on the "secularism" of the institutions and religious freedom. A tired and "cowardly” West is in need of a new evangelization. The outcome of the Oasis Scientific Committee meeting.
Christian humanism to help the unexpected “Arab spring”
The scientific committee of the journal Oasis opened its annual meeting to discuss the present and future of the ‘Jasmine Revolutions’. Great new things are now possible, ranging from the battle against poverty and the struggle for human dignity to the rejection of Islamic radicalism. There are also worrisome signs with regard to fundamentalist groups and fears in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Europe. For Patriarch Scola, a new “economic reason” is necessary. Christian humanism must help the changes underway.
19/06/2012 TUNISIA - ISLAM
Marzouki at Oasis: Christians, Muslims, Jews and atheists, all brothers in Tunisia
The Tunisian president reiterates the point that freedom of conscience is the basis of the Jasmine Revolution in his country. This means the right to change religion or have none at all. The transition is difficult in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Arabian Peninsula and Morocco. In such places, conversion and baptism are prevented by fear of what consequences they might entail. However, the Arab revolution has changed people's mindset, carving greater space for the individual rather than the 'Ummah'. The West has failed to understand what is taking place.
Egypt, after 60 years Muslim Brotherhood party admitted to elections
Born after the jasmine revolution, Justice and Freedom aims to achieve 50% of the votes in September elections, despite the unfavourable polls. AsiaNews sources emphasize the clever campaign of the Muslim Brotherhood, to date the only ones on television, radio and in newspapers. Concern over Islamist drift of Egypt.
Bin Laden "killed" by the Jasmine Revolution
Support for the terrorist leader and al Qaeda was already at its lowest point in recent years, even in Pakistan. For many Muslims, Bin Laden is a “black mark” in the history of Islam. Young people in Cairo and Tunis had already distanced themselves from Jihad and terror, favouring instead democracy rather than an Islamic caliphate.
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Muslims and Christians meet in Cairo for Jerusalem, 'the cause of causes'
A conference was held on 16-17 January at al-Azhar. Many prominent figures from Lebanon took part, including the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi. The Arab world is divided between "complicit passivity" and "noisy but ineffective speeches". For a former Lebanese premier, coordinated actions are needed to ensure greater efficacy on behalf of Jerusalem’s "pluralistic identity " and "religious freedom". Card Al-Rahi called for joint prayers, Islamic-Christian interfaith solidarity in the Arab world, and support for the Palestinians.
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