You infidel

Tunisia is considered one of the more secular states in the region. And yet

Thirty-year-old Tunisian blogger and secular activist Lina Ben Mhenni is concerned about death threats posted on her Facebook page and sent to her mobile phone.

“You see this message is in Arabic, it reads: ‘You infidel, we will kill you.'”

Pointing to another message, she says: “And this is just as clear: ‘We will find you.'”

If there’s anything that’s not secular, it’s the concept of being an “infidel.”

But many of the country’s more radical religious groups do not like people like Ms Ben Mhenni pushing to keep post-revolution Tunisia liberal and secular.

“This is not Tunisia it used to be,” she laments

“Radical Islamists are flourishing in the new Tunisia. They are a minority but have become very vocal.”

Ms Ben Mhenni says those who disagree with her do not limit their criticism to Facebook or texts.

“I have often been harassed by hardliners on the streets physically and verbally.”

Well she’s an infidel.

Ms Ben Mhenni showed me a recent YouTube video of a leader in the hardline Ansar al-Sharia group – which supports the introduction of Islamic law – attacking her on Tunisian TV.

“His statements are misleading really and taken out context to frame me,” said Ms Ben Mhenni, who teaches linguistics at Tunis University.

But she’s an infidel. That’s what one does to infidels.


  1. kevinalexander says

    I find it amusing in a grim sort of way that an omniscient, omnipotent curator of the universe would care so much that he would still send plagues of mindless vermin to strike at people who don’t believe in him or who don’t have a penis or both.

  2. says

    I was just thinking that the whole idea of imposing one’s religious views and rules on others is a kind of blasphemy. Surely Allah would rather the infidels hoist themselves with their own petards (so to speak) than that they be made to fake and deceive by conforming to religion due to force and intimidation. Let the people seek Allah out of love and devotion, not out of fear and dishonesty.

    Why isn’t it enough for the faithful to follow the laws of their gods? Don’t believe in contraception or divorce or eating pork or enjoying sex? Fine. Show how pious and good you are. How much better you are than the apostates and unbelievers. Wallow in your own righteousness. But please, leave your god to punish the wicked and the godless in his own good time. Doing otherwise is presumption in the extreme.

  3. says

    Why isn’t it enough for the faithful to follow the laws of their gods?

    Because religion is a technique for social control. I know you were just asking rhetorically, but whenever you want to understand the actions of the “faithful” imagine that they’re as atheist as you are and are just using religion as an excuse to get what they want – everything will be clear, then.

  4. lurker says

    ‘Why isn’t it enough for the faithful to follow the laws of their gods?’
    Because they are compassionate and merciful people who can’t just let the ignorant heathen go to Hell without trying to save them.

  5. says

    Oh, yeah, it was totally a rhetorical question. It’s kind of like the abortion issue: we know it’s all about controlling and punishing women because they don’t do the things they would do if it were about believing that embryos were the same as babies, and that human rights attached at conception rather than birth.

    If religion weren’t about social control, but rather about an actual all-powerful, all-knowing, just god, it would be a lot different. Acting in the god’s place to punish wrong-doers would be blasphemous. Following Jesus’s command to judge not lest ye be judged would be a no-brainer.

  6. Gordon Willis says

    If you can frighten enough people, you can get what you want. If frightening people is a religious act — say a duty to god — one can get away with it. It’s not like threatening innocent people, it’s just pursuing the will of the lord.
    This makes it a religious observance, so it’s OK. It means that the people being threatened are somehow in the wrong — maybe they’re not allowing freedom of belief if they protest against being threatened. This is the kind of confusion that religious extremists exploit.
    Recently, there was a case in Britain where a muslim on trial refused to stand for the judge, because his religion forbade him to show respect for a woman. (I don’t seem to have made a note of the source: I’ll try to find it). This led to a pantomimic compromise. I could scream. The defendant rises out of respect for the office of judge, not for the person who fulfils that office. Rising to one’s feet is to acknowledge the principle of justice that the judge embodies. If you successfully maintain that it matters whether the judge is a man or a woman you overthrow the principle of impartiality that justice of necessity involves. Why is it so hard to remember these things? I would say that it is because we’re all so worried about seeming disrespectful of cultural beliefs that we forget the principles on which our ideal of respect is based: we put them aside, as if they were of no real consequence, maybe because they are too abstract to keep in mind. Personally, I think that “contempt of court” would be an appropriate charge.
    This is a principle on which there can be no compromise, without destroying the foundations of equality before the law. If Tunisia doesn’t watch out, it will throw away all that it has gained.

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