Friday, January 27, 2012

Tunisia: appeasement proceeding on time, alligator ready to start eating

The "moderate" Islamic government of Tunisia has a Salafist problem, and it seems the best way to deal with it is to give it what it wants, at least in the form of lip service.  The new government, under the leadership of Hamadi Jebali only since December, has begun to play both sides of the jihad fence.   Not wanting to isolate them from their constituent base they call for more Islam, while the liberal and independent alliances get promises of closer ties and better treatment.  It is a fools game to think you can win by playing both sides.  When dealing with Islam, the losing of the game also means losing the head at the neck.

Not a good look for anyone.

From France24 January 26

Tunisia's Islamic leaders pressured by radical fringe

AFP - Tunisia's moderate Islamist leaders are under pressure from a radical Muslim fringe, forcing them to stress their liberal democratic credentials without alienating their base, analysts say.

Ultra-conservative Salafists have in past months launched bold challenges -- demanding full-face veils for female university students, castigating a TV channel for a "blasphemous" film and beating up journalists at a protest.

Their actions have heightened tensions in the north African country that was under secular rule for decades until the overthrow a year ago of strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali kicked off the Arab Spring and led to elections in October.

Moderate Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who took power in December, has this week adopted a firmer tone, while his Ennahda party also took unusually clear positions against the extremist religious activists.

(...)"The government is worried," said Ali Laidi Ben Mansour, editor in chief of Nessma and of news site webmanagercenter. "From my point of view, a confrontation is looming between the 'moderate Islamists' of Ennahda and the radical Salafists.

"Until now the Salafists -- who are certainly a minority but capable of mobilizing and acting -- have taken advantage of the government's hesitation."

(...)Suddenly, Tunisia's ruling Islamist party "finds itself in a very difficult situation," said the researcher. "It does not want go to war with the Salafists, because it does not want to lose that base before the next election.

"But it won't be able to maintain its stance of ambiguity much longer."

Read it all

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