Ennahda statement on La Marsa artwork calls for criminal prosecution of artists

This afternoon Ennahda’s parliamentary group in the constituent assembly released a statement concerning the events of the last 48 hours, which began with a protest and the eventual destruction of numerous works of art deemed offensive to Islam. See my reports here and here. The statement, released by the TAP press agency (government’s official agency) states the following, emphasis mine:

“The Ennahdha Movement (parliamentary) group in the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) said Tuesday that it will propose a law criminalizing the violation of the sacred and will work to include in the Constitution a principle against interference with the sacred.

“Religious symbols are above any mockery, irony or violation,” the group said in a statement Ennahdha, whereas freedom of expression and creation, “although recognized by the Movement”, are not “absolute “and” those who perform them should respect the beliefs and customs of the people.”

Acts of destruction, vandalism and arson are, according to the press release, either “a false answer to secular extremism” or “part of a destructive process targeting the state and its legitimacy through attacks on its courts public administration.”

The Ennahdha group called on the authorities to “open a criminal investigation and to prosecute all those who are found to be involved in the violation of the sacred and destruction of property”.

It also called on Tunisians to not respond to calls for arson and destruction and to express their opinions within the law.”

Readers will note that Tunisia actually already has laws of this nature in its penal code (115), which has been condemned by groups including Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders. This has allowed recent prosecutions of those who have posted offensive pictures on Facebook and the translators of films featuring images that have been deemed offensive.

The statement was elaborated upon on the party’s Facebook page.

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President Marzouki honors feminine heroes

Courtesy of Tunisia Live

In a fitting tribute to a week in which the world celebrated women, Tunisia has two new feminine heroes.

La vive émotion de Khaoula Rachidi et Amel Aloui, reçues au Palais de Carthage

Tunisia's feminine heros, Khaoula Rachidi and Amel Aloui. Photo via Leaders.com

The first is Khaoula Rachidi. Leaders.com describes her as Tunisia’s Marianne, the national emblem of France for freedom and reason. Tunisian’s now know her as the woman who stood up for the country’s flag against religious extremism and division. The second is Amel Aloui, a long-time fighter for human rights in Tunisia.

Leader.com reports:

One is tall, the other petite, but both have grown in the eyes of all Tunisians. Khaoula Rachidi, who rushed with courage and determination to defend the national flag in Manouba and Amel Aloui who had confronted the attackers. Both were moved on Monday morning arriving at Carthage Palace where they were received by the President.

The two women were invited by the President following violent confrontations at Manouba university last week between Salafists and other students at the university.

The AP’s Bouazza Ben Bouazza described the incident which led to Roushidi and Aloui being honored:

Islamist and leftist students fought running battles at a Tunisian university Wednesday in the latest incident involving rising religious sentiment in the North African country.

Competing demonstrations in the morning by hundreds of conservative students, known as Salafis, and leftist members of the national students’ union erupted into violence when the former tore down the national flag flying at the university entrance.

The Salafi students replaced the Tunisian flag with their own black standard bearing the Muslim profession of faith.