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Tunisia faces no threat from Islamic extremists: President Marzouki

Published: 12/07/2012 09:06:00 PM GMT
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Tunis: Tunisia is not confronted by the threat of Islamic extremism and the country is being administered by a coalition government which includes the parties belonging to the center-leftist wing.

By Farhan Iqbal


Tunis: Tunisia is not confronted by the threat of Islamic extremism and the country is being administered by a coalition government which includes the parties belonging to the center-leftist wing.

This clarification came from the President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki, while giving an interview to an international news agency.

The Tunisian President categorically stated that Tunisia is not facing any danger from the Islamic extremists and the country is being governed by the coalition of major political forces in Tunisia. He stressed on this statement during his interview in order to wipe out raising concerns in the international arena regarding strengthening of Islamic extremists in Tunisia.

He said that his mission was aimed at removing tensions that arose during the 2011 revolution that swept away former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's regime in Tunisia.

When he was asked about the presence of Salafism, a hardliner Muslim sect, in Tunisia, he answered that the Salafist trend of radical Islam is “a nuisance but not a force capable of endangering the republic.”

“When the Salafists wanted to add oil to the fire by pretending religion was being insulted, they had to step back because they realized the whole of the security establishment was absolutely opposed,” he added.

He said this while referring to an attack on an art exhibition last month that led to riots and a curfew being imposed on the streets of Tunisia. It included a painting of a naked woman with bearded men standing behind her.

Marzouki stated, “Such extremism was the work of the poorest sector of society, with wretched poverty the cause.”

During the interview, he many times pointed out that the Islamists of Ennahda, which dominates the government, share power with two center-left parties, the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and Ettakatol, which won 33 percent of the seats in the assembly.

He firmly clarified, “The claim that Tunisia is governed by Islamists is an aberration. Tunisia is governed by a coalition in which the secular partners have as much weight as their Islamist partner.”

He continued, “Ennahda are people who we somehow ‘converted,’ in quotation marks, to democracy during the 1980s and 1990s.”

Marzouki highlighted that Ennahda is committed to human rights and the rights of women despite the political crisis sparked by the June extradition of Libya's former premier, Baghdadi Al-Mahmudi, over the president's opposition.

He said while revealing that he was about to resign from the office, “The coalition almost fell apart because you must not touch human rights.”

He gave reason for not resigning as saying, “But I received all sorts of assurances from Ennahda and from the Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, the Islamist leader who instigated the extradition.”

He also pointed out, “Never in the history of Tunisia has the press been so free and full of criticism of the way the country was being run.”

“I am even happy when I am being caricatured because it shows we are no longer in a dictatorship,” Marzouki concluded.



Tunisia's President Moncef Marzouki

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