Tunisian Regression

Judges in different parts of Europe have been behaving like their American cousins and making law from the bench, insisting that it is a violation of religious freedom to restrict the use of the veil by Muslim women.

So it’s no surprise that Tunisia is doing the same thing. The interesting twist is that Tunisia, like Turkey, is a Muslim country that had outlawed the veil. Now, however, it’s going back on the deal.

According to ANSAmed:

The ruling of a Tunisian court on the issue of the “Islamic veil” risks to make one of the most developed Maghreb countries in terms of women’s rights regress by fifty years. The court annulled a circular from 1986, which prohibited the use of veil, “because,” the ruling read “it interferes with personal liberties and threatens the freedom of religion”, representatives of a human rights association told press agency Apanews, cited by weekly newspaper Jeune Afrique. Habib Bourguiba, leader of the struggle for independence and the first president of the Tunisian Republic (from 1957 to 1987) was the first to prohibit the veil in the public administration, as well advising Tunisian women not to wear it in public. According to circular 108, Tunisian women were not allowed to wear veils in schools and work places, as they were considered “sectarian accessories” and a sign of religious and political extremism. In the last 15 years thousands of girls and women were dismissed from work or expelled from school because of the veil. The court which annulled the provision ruled that the “law interferes in the personal liberties and threatens the freedom of religion”. According to Apanews, the sentence was received with joy by conservators, while the left-wing circles immediately expressed their concern.

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About a year ago representatives of the government also expressed their opinion on the discussed circular, recommending that “it is concretely implemented”. Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in particular, insisted on the slight difference which exists in “the Tunisian traditional wear, like women’s foulard” and the sectarian, intrusive and brought from the outside ones, like the veil and the tunic, which introduce obscurantism and are thus dangerous”. Tunisia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in turn, defined the veil “a political slogan, used by a political faction which hides behind religion to realize political projects”. After yesterday’s ruling, however, no comment came from Tunisia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, probably because today national holiday Aid el Fitr is celebrated, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and which gives the start of three festive days during which offices, stores and schools are closed and the publishing of newspapers is suspended.

The interesting thing in this is that the “left-wing circles” in Tunisia are alarmed by the court’s decision, as well they should be: their right to practice their own secular orthodoxy is being threatened.

But leftists in the non-Muslim world are either much stupider or much more ignorant than their Tunisian counterparts, because most of them support the “right” of Muslim women to be veiled, even to the point of the burkha. Or perhaps it’s simply a political calculation on their part, or maybe even a belief that the rights of women truly are served by Islamic fundamentalist strictures.

In any case, Tunisia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had it right: the veil is “a political slogan, used by a political faction which hides behind religion to realize political projects.”

Why are they able to see the problem so much more clearly than our own elected leaders?

Hat tip: insubria.

One thought on “Tunisian Regression

  1. This seems to be an on-going regression, hmm?

    Maybe we should keep an up-dated list as each new turning back of the clock is sighted.

    I remember reading 20 years ago that Turkey was headed down this way. I just didn’t want to believe it…

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