Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Salafi rampage in Tunisia

Khelil sent me this:  "Just because Tunisia rarely makes the news in the West, I just wanted to report on the Salafi kooks who went crazy burning shit last night - police stations, fire station, courts, cafes, and a tourism school. While they may have been rallied by the kook leader of Qai'dah calling on Tunisians to rise up against al Nahda for their ostensible opposition to Shari'ah, the pretext by the Salafis was in opposition to an art show in Marsa containing, in their eyes, blasphemous paintings (many mocked Salafis and one was of a figure floating over the Ka'aba) that "insult" Muslims. Late at night, these fanatics marched through the streets shouting Allahu Akhbar, clashing with police and burning emblems of the state or the "West". The next morning Rashid Ghannoushi defended the Salafis on television by laying the blame on the art show. So basically Salafis are never held to account. They do not have agency but are merely "provoked" and the entire nation must never offend the sensibilities of 10,000 fanatics - who find even the Islam at Zaitouna to be an offense and once beat up a cleric there. al Nahda has gone further in their vulgar logic by announcing that the constitution will include a clause banning "blasphemy". And al Nahda is described as "moderate"! Ghannoushi also claimed without evidence that irreligious street thugs are to blame - but if so why not ransack a shop and other goodies rather than burning an empty courthouse? Computers et al were smashed instead of stolen. It's a bullshit cover by an extremist. And while people were arrested the following morning never are there prosecutions. This isn't the first time Salafis have been arrested, but this is as credible as when Israel promises to investigate this or that killing. al Nahda arrests to appear so it is clamping down, but they are always released while people who have printed newspaper photos or Facebook postings have actually been sentenced to jail or fined. This is on top of the growing hold Salafis have over mosques and even schools in interior towns. In the last few weeks alone, other police stations and liquor shops have been burned. Many Tunisians are considering leaving. I know Tunisian students who have cancelled their return plans and have opted to stay here. On Facebook, even Ben 'Ali nostalgia is present under the banned "sad but yet..." I used to be optimistic, but I do not know anymore. Now I'm just neutral on future prospects, but I do believe that if Nahda wins the next elections the nation will be pretty much written off by me. Salafis have grown more and more violent precisely because the government, as demonstrated by Ghannoushi's apologia, nay explicit defense, has allowed them to act with impunity constantly with a lenient hand if not defense. A year ago they just carried signs, now every time they claim they have been "provoked" they riot in mayhem attacking property and further deterring tourists in a stricken economy. A curfew has been issued."