In the second announcement in a week, the Ministry of Religious Affairs reasserted the state’s role in mosques around the country. Babnet reports:
The Ministry of Religious Affairs said, in a statement released Tuesday, that the appointment of religious officials at mosques is the responsibility of the Ministry and “no party” outside the ministry has “the right to intervene in the matter of dismissing,appointing or engaging [any other official] any way whatsoever and under any condition “.
In its statement, the Ministry states that in “the case that mosque-goers would like a change in the officials at the mosque, it should be done by contacting the ministry, along with arguments and documents to that effect.”
The ministry said that “religious buildings are public property and that any action to change them is against the law and a source of anarchy.”
The statement follows reports last week following the Minister of Religious Affair’s visit with Salafists last week in Jendouba:
Noureddine El Khademi, Minister for Religious Affairs, visited Salafists in Jendouba to call for better understanding of theology and not to accuse people of disbelief (takfir)….
….”accusations of infidelity threaten to destabilize society even though we share the same religion,” said Mr. El-Khademi in a debate with Salafis met in the mosque of the city Ezzouhour in Jendouba. He added that “Tunisia is in urgent need of unity and cohesion at this time.”
Mr. El-Khademi notably announced a project of the ministry to organize training sessions for preachers (Imams) to “help them to enrich the content of the lectures they present.”
Salafis have occupied for some time (various) mosques in Jendouba (and who have clashed regularly with the police and army).
The move has surprised some, as the previous regime was often faulted for its highly centralized control over religious institutions. Under Ben Ali, Imams were ordered to read Friday prayers that had been scripted by the regime (and were supportive of the regime).
This is one example that the government, following weeks of protests by Salafis around the country, is taking the issue seriously. The question is whether an Islamist government will have more success controlling fundamentalists than their predecessors.