No punching out the sacred

Tunisia’s assembly passed a new constitution yesterday. It’s better than it might have been but it’s still flawed.

Parliament agreed the text on Friday after the governing Ennahda party granted a number of concessions, including dropping references to Islamic law.

It guarantees freedom of worship but says Islam is the state religion. It also forbids “attacks on the sacred”, which analysts say is open to interpretation.

That. Very good that references to sharia were dropped, but not good that any religion is the state religion, and bad that it forbids attacks on “the sacred,” whatever the hell that is when it’s at home.

The text also recognises equality between men and women for the first time.

Well that is good.

Ennahda, a moderate Islamist party, won the first democratic elections after long-time ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was forced from power in 2011.

Damn BBC. There’s no such thing as a “moderate” Islamist party. Islamism is theocracy and that can’t be “moderate” in this world at this time.


  1. khms says

    Moderate is always relative. A moderate politician in the US would be very different from a moderate politician in Germany, for example.

    In that sense, I have to assume that there can in fact be a moderate Islamist party – and if you compare Ennahda to the Egypt Muslim Brothers, that seems like a defensible point.

    Doesn’t mean that that party would be anything like a moderate non-Islamist European or American party. (Nor that those two are similar.)

    Let me put it like this:

    I’m happy that we have neither Ennahda nor the Muslim Brothers in our political spectrum. If, however, I had to chose between having either, I’d much rather have the first than the second. (For that matter, I’d be happier without our current religious majority party – you know, the one behind Merkel.)

  2. rnilsson says

    Trade-Merkel the Angelic, you mean? 😉

    Not to derail, but … if Germany and France had not opened the flood-gates of national budget overspending, much of the present Euro crisis would not have occurred. These two (big, muscular) countries were the first to break the rule for acceptability in the Euro-zone. Now it is perhaps justice according to classical Greek tragedy that they foot the majority of the bill when others follow their example. The true tragedy, however, is that those other countries that naïvely followed the rule also must pay. And Angela was definitely complicit in that first breach.

    Ahem. The topic was constitutionality, right?

  3. Shatterface says

    ‘Moderate’ is like ‘Mussolini’s party was only moderately fascist in the early years compared to Hitler’s Nazis’

  4. says

    If by “moderate” they mean “integrates more reality into their politics than other Islamist parties”, then that’s better than a “hard line” or “conservative” or “fundamental” Islamist party. But, it seems as if they’ve given themselves the blasphemy wild card with the “attacks on the sacred” language that could be enforced in a not so moderate way and were trying to get Islamic law in there anyway. It looks like this constitution could be used to enforce Islamic law if anything violating Islamic law is considered an “attack on the sacred”.

    I’m perplexed by the seemingly ceremonial non-secularism. A quick glance as the US will show that a secular constitution seems to be fertilizer for religion. Want to energize religion, create a secular government! Of course, the fact is that the religious will always want to use the government’s power to enforce their one true beliefs.

  5. Omar Puhleez says

    “There’s no such thing as a “moderate” Islamist party.”

    ‘Moderate’ authoritarians of any brand tend to get sidelined or have their throats cut in the first purge, night of the long knives, or whatever. Thus neither Fascism, Nazism nor Stalinist communism had moderate wings.. You can’t be a 50% supporter of the Great Leader.

    Saying “I support bin Laden on most issues” would have got any Islamist, no matter how sincere, given an order from the top to make a very major and generous blood donation.

  6. anon15001 says

    It is not just the BBC. Every press outlet I have ever seen refers to Ennada as “moderate”. And the term is clearly inaccurate. Ennada is a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ennada is “moderate” only in the sense that 6 decades of Tunisian secularism placed limits on what Ennada could get away with. If Ennada had the means, it would wipe out secularism altogether and create an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. Lacking the power to do that immediately, it opted for a step by step approach when it came to power. Having lost a great deal of popularity in the last two years, Ennada is making whatever compromises it deems prudent to try to ensure its survival.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Islamism is theocracy and that can’t be “moderate” in this world at this time.


    Everything is relative and you can have less extreme versus more extreme islamists – but Islamism by definition, by being what is – the fanatical adherence to a fundamentalist stone age set of beliefs – is bad. Yes, could be worse too but it is still bad whatever the relative moderation because there us no reformed, post enlightment “Allah is just a metaphor and Mohammad ‘s story just a set of parables that can be diverged from.” Islam especially the modern fundamentalist Islamist varieties just doesn’t seem to have sophistication and uncertainty and debate and acceptance of necessary Mosque-State separation that is required to qualify as genuinely moderate and harmless. We just don’t hear about ideas of secularism and modernism in the Islamic world.

    Closest thing to that in today’s globe would appear to be Turkey where Kemal Attaturk gave it a really good go and almost got there but even there there’s been some back-sliding with Islamists (who are sympathetic to Hamas at that) now in charge.

  8. Silentbob says

    @ 6 StevoR

    Islamism by definition, by being what is – the fanatical adherence to a fundamentalist stone age set of beliefs

    The beliefs may now be anachronistic, but the 7th century BCE was not the “stone age”.

    We just don’t hear about ideas of secularism and modernism in the Islamic world.

    Bullshit. This post is about ideas of secularism and modernism (freedom of religion, gender equality) in the Islamic world, however poorly realised those ideas may currently be.

  9. Silentbob says

    Oops. I don’t normally bother to correct typos retrospectively, but BCE in the previous comment is, of course, meant to be CE.

  10. kbplayer says

    Well, the “state religion” and the “attacks on the sacred” (ie a blasphemy law) – the UK had both of these until very recently and still has the state religion. It still manages to be a liberal democracy with caveats (libel laws, slippy attitudes towards freedom of speech for instance). So as far as the Arab Spring countries goes, Tunisia is rather cheering. Pity it’s such a small and unimportant country in Arab terms compared to the biggies around those parts like Iraq and Egypt.

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