Ennahda ‘soldiers’ rally to demand ‘Islamisation’ of Tunisia constitution
TUNIS - Several thousand men and women demonstrated outside the Tunisian parliament on Friday to demand the inclusion of Islamic law in the North African country's future constitution.
"The people want the application of God's sharia", "Our Koran is our constitution", "No constitution without sharia," and "Tunisia is neither secular nor scientific, it is an Islamic state", cried the protesters, drawn from different Islamist movements.
Some men climbed on the roof of the building and unfurled a banner that read: "The people belong to God."
Several women sported the niqab, or full-face veils.
The ultra-conservative Salafists have in recent months demanded full-face veils for female university students, castigated a TV channel for an allegedly blasphemous film and beaten up journalists at a protest.
"We are here today to peacefully demand the application of sharia in the new constitution. We will not impose anything by force on the Tunisian people, we just want that the people are convinced of the principles," said Marwan, a 24-year-old trader.
An engineer, who refused to give his name, added: "A Muslim should live under the tenets of Islamic law. The secularists would have one believe that Islam chops off the hands of thieves but... one must study Islam. The West has failed."
The protest was timed to coincide with parliamentary negotiations over a new constitution
in a country long considered one of the Arab world’s most secular.
One of the organisers who handed in a petition said “more than 200 Islamic organisations are backing the move.”
As Islamists did not play a prominent role in last year’s uprising, some secularists fear their demands will undermine Tunisia’s fledgling democracy.
Secular critics fear a gradual encroachment of ever stricter rules, however. They want Ennahda to rein in religious zealots.
One taxi driver, speeding away from the protest, said he had stopped taking passengers with beards or niqab as they kept demanding he turn off the music he plays on his radio.
"They want sharia? So they can amputate hands? Impossible," he said. "Now is not the time for sharia. Now is the time to think about the economy, about helping the unemployed and bringing back tourism to Tunisia."