(AsiaNews) - The Jasmine Revolution, whose initial spark came in Tunisia, could
"fail". A solution lies in the "modernisation of Islam" and the "Islamisation
of the revolution". This means that the future of Arab revolutions will depend
on the room Islam will take and whether it has any place for religious
minorities or atheists.
first session of the scientific committee of Oasis began this morning in Tunis on
such a serious note. This year's topic is Religion
in a society in transition. How Tunisia challenges the West.
word "transition" best describes what is happening in that country. After the fall
of the dictator, Ben Ali, and the elections won by the Islamist party Ennahda
and Salafists, Tunisians are trying to find a common path towards freedom.
Yadh Ben Achour sounded the alarm though. "If Tunisia does not meet the
challenge of modernity, the revolution might fail," leading to a new
dictatorship, not one based on personal power, but rather on ideology and
Ben Achour, who is president of Tunisia's High Authority to Achieve the
Revolution's Goals, the country's coalition government is split between two
tendencies, a radical Islamic wing that wants to introduce Sharia, and a second
one that is more open and modern.
instance, a few days ago, the authorities moved against some radical imams who in
their sermons called for the application of Islamic rules in courts (cutting
off legs, feet and more) in the case of common crimes. By contrast, they did nothing
to stop Salafists when they attacked an art exhibit and burnt some "blasphemous"
works by self-styled "atheist" painters and artists.
Tunisia, civil society can play an important role in countering radical trends.
This is especially true for leftwing opposition groups and trade unions, which led
the resistance to the Ben Ali's regime, and carried out the revolution, along
with the Ennahda.
his address, Prof Ben Achour noted that during a 2005 hunger strike organised
by Ennahda and the left, the two sides agreed on a number of issues concerning
the state, women's rights and citizenship. This allowed Ennahda to move "towards
democracy" and helped leftwing parties to accept some demands made about Islam.
strength of civil society explains why Islam will be recognised as "state
religion" in Tunisia's constitution, but the country's legal system will not be
based on the Sharia (a point Ennahda Chief Rachid Gannouchi also accepts). This
is not the case in almost all other Middle Eastern countries.
to Tunisian-born Harvard Prof Malika Zeghal, coexistence can be based on a
balance and the country's past is a source for such optimism.
the rule of Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourghiba, Islam was a point of
reference, but personal freedoms were protected in law and equal rights guaranteed
for men and women. Such a balance could be favoured by a "pragmatic compromise"
that might lower current tensions. However, more work needs to be done on its foundations.
Ben Achour, something is needed before all else. Islam must defend freedom of
religion, especially freedom of conscience, and this means the possibility for
anyone to have no religion (atheism) or change religion.
it, Tunisia could slide towards a theocratic state that limits personal
freedoms and cuts itself off from its own rich culture, which includes poets
and philosophers critical of an Islamic religion reduced to a collection of
Angelo Scola, president of the Oasis Foundation, opened the morning session
with his greetings and address via video linkup since he could not be in Tunis.
his speech, the archbishop of Milan said that the West must consider the
failures of secularisation. In fact, the sacred is making a comeback and this
has made it necessary to revitalise freedom of religion, which is the
foundation of all freedoms. For Card Scola, space for religions, as a basis for
individual dignity, is an area in which Christians and Muslims can work
society defined by openness to man and religion is not the same as today's
society. Indeed, Ben Achour and Zeghal criticised the West for holding back the
"Jasmine Revolution" and backing the ruling dictator whilst making noises about
revolution was not influenced by the West, Ben Achour noted. It is an entirely "indigenous"
phenomenon. It shows that human beings were created for freedom and that they
can sacrifice themselves in their struggle against dictatorships that humiliate
is no American plot" behind the Tunisian revolution, Zeghal said, "only the
work of Tunisians. For this reason, a compromise among the revolution's various
strands will succeed because that is what Tunisians want."