Tunisia seeks to wrest back control of mosques

2014-03-13 10:17
AFP

AFP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

  • Egypt
    This book is jam packed with all the fascinating facts and information you need to know about Egypt. Now R149.00
    buy now
Tunis - Tunisian authorities are seeking to regain control of certain mosques they say have become incubators for radical Islamist ideology, which has spread since the 2011 revolution.

The move follows the January resignation of a government led by moderate Islamist party Ennahda, which was heavily criticised for failing to stem a rise in jihadist violence.

The violence came as militants benefited from a post-Arab Spring power vacuum across much of North Africa.

"Two weeks ago we began implementing a strategy to recover mosques outside our control, within a period of not more than three months," Abdessattar Badr, a senior official at the ministry of religious affairs, told AFP.

According to Badr, around 150 of Tunisia's 5 100 mosques are outside the state's control, including at least 50 under the influence of radical imams, or prayer leaders. Others say the real number is higher.

Many mosques beyond the reach of the state are controlled by "people who don't have the least qualification to be imams," and who "have transformed the mosques into dormitories and restaurants," the ministry official said.

Interior ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui said that after the ouster of longtime autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who harshly suppressed Islamists, more than 1 000 mosques fell into the hands of extremists.

The constitution

"They kicked out the imams appointed by the religious affairs ministry on the grounds that they were remnants of the former regime," Aroui explained.

Today "they are inciting violence against the security forces and the army in their sermons, calling them tyrants", he added.

"They also call for jihad in Syria and try to spread extremist ideas from abroad into Tunisian society."

The violence that accompanied the growing assertiveness of radical Islamists in Tunisia culminated last year with the assassination of two secular politicians in separate attacks blamed on jihadists that plunged the country into turmoil.

The crisis eventually forced the departure of the Islamist-led government and brought a replacement by an interim cabinet of technocrats after a long-delayed new constitution was finally adopted in late January.

The constitution, a compromise that reduced the prominence of Islam, tasked the state with ensuring the political neutrality of mosques.

Badr said a committee consisting of representatives from the interior, religious affairs and justice ministries had been formed to enforce the government's new strategy of reasserting control.

"Every week we draw up a list of mosques to be recovered, after having officially tasked moderate and tolerant imams with supervising them," he said.

"Before acting, we talk with those who took over the mosques, who then sign a written commitment" to leave them, the ministry spokesman added, without indicating what measures would be taken if they refused.

Threat to democracy

A similar policy has been adopted in Egypt, where the military-installed authorities have started tightening their grip on mosques and dictating the themes of weekly Friday sermons, in a bid to curb dissent by Islamists loyal to ousted president Mohammed Morsi.

On Tuesday, Tunisian Salafist preacher Khamis Mejri was placed in pre-trial detention for preaching at mosques in the northern city of Bizerte without authorisation.

A law dating back to 1988 bans "any activity in mosques, in the form of speeches, meetings or writings, by people not belonging to the institution that oversees their work, unless authorised by the prime minister."

Separately, the ministry of religious affairs announced on Monday that it was going to fix the opening hours of mosques in Tunisia, for the first time in three years.

But as in Egypt, some fear the intention is to silence dissent on the pretext of combatting terrorism.

"The 'neutralisation' of mosques was a strategy pursued by [former presidents Habib] Bourguiba and Ben Ali, which transformed the mosques into mouthpieces for their regimes," said Houcine Labidi, imam at the Zitouna mosque in Tunis.

He called the new policy a threat to democracy.

Under Ben Ali's rule, regular mosque-goers, particularly those who attended dawn prayers, were often investigated and summoned to the interior ministry, which also drafted Friday sermons.
Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  egypt  |  tunisia  |  north africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Camping gear!

We’ve got all your camping must have’s right here at mind blowing low prices. Check them out now!

Herbex – buy 3 & get 1 free!

Fat burn packs, appetite control chewies, stretch mark cream and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

30% off Jinger Jack handbags

Spice up your wardrobe and save 30% on stylish Jinger Jack handbags. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Buy 3 books & pay for 2

The cheapest of the 3 books will be free. Offer valid while stocks last. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

Deal of the week!

Hisense 40” Full HD LED Television now R3999. Offer valid while stocks last. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Mercury has moved into Libra which adds a more social energy to the way you can communicate and connect things. Today is about...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.