Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

Arab Spring Begats Bitter Fruits

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has sunken into chaos since the toppling of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14, 2011. Before the revolution, Muslims, Christians, Jews and atheists lived in relative peace. But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, radical Islamists have terrorized the nation’s minorities. Roving bands of jihadists and Salafists have desecrated churches, destroyed graves and chanted anti-Jewish slogans outside El Ghriba, Tunisia’s last functioning synagogue. The extremists spread feces on the walls of a Russian Orthodox Church, ordering the priest to remove all Christian symbols.  “And if we didn’t do it, they’d resort to force,” the frightened priest says.

The moderate Ennahda party, which is now running the Tunisian government, insists these are the actions of rogue elements. “We have to convince them. It is a country for all citizens, whether Islamists or not,” says Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader. But his party faces an uphill struggle. Thamina Thabet from the Society for the Support of Minorities notes the Salafists have “taken control of 400 mosques and now they are teaching a new generation the way they think.”  Bill Code reports from Tunisia and asks, “As religious minorities watch with unease the growing strength of puritanical Islamist groups, can a country with a proud secular tradition find its democracy?” H/T Journeyman Pictures

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