Tunisia has just approved a new constitution, three years after it was the first country to topple an autocratic government and unleash what is now known as the Arab spring.
After the historic vote, the red and white Tunisian flag was unfurled and assembly deputies embraced, danced and sang inside the chamber in Tunis to celebrate the charter, which has been widely praised for its inclusiveness.
“This constitution was the dream of Tunisians, this constitution is proof of the revival of the revolution, this constitution creates a democratic civil nation,” Assembly chief Mustapha Ben Jaafar said.
While the new constitution recognizes Islam as the country’s religion, it also enshrines freedom of conscience and belief, and equality between the sexes.
Although it still has the undesirable feature of having a national religion, it did reject the idea of laws being based on Sharia. If they can keep the state religion to a ceremonial level like in the United Kingdom, this may work.
It is very important that the Tunisia succeed. We need good models of a secular democracy in that part of the world, especially those that treat genders equally.
The tragic sacrifice of street vendor Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouaziz, whose self-immolation on January 4, 2011 as an act of protest triggered the wave of demonstrations that toppled the old regime just ten days later, has borne fruit.