Tunisia: Bloggers Divided on Qaradawi's Visit

Discussions continue in the Tunisian blogosphere and Facebook following the visit of Egyptian Islamic scholar Yousif Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar, to the secular country two weeks ago.

While some were enthusiastic, applauding the visit and creating a Facebook group to express their joy and happiness, others have formed a group protesting against and opposing this visit.

Qaradawi's official visit to Tunisia on March 4 and 5 was to celebrate Kairouan as a capital for Islamic culture. This visit is considered his first official visit to Tunisia since he accused the Tunisian government of hostility towards Islam and Muslims. He also accused Tunisian poet Sghaier Awled Ahmed, of being an infidel in his book: Secular extremism in Islam: The Cases of Tunisia and Turkey, which was published in 2001.

The supporters of the visit saw in this official visit a change in the government's policy towards Islam and Islamism and a sign of the failure of the secular project in Tunisia. Rashed Ghannuchi president of the now banned Islamic movement Annahdha shared the movement's joy over the visit and he also called upon the Tunisian authorities to cancel the decree prohibiting the hijab (Islamic headscarf worn by women), in a Press release he issued from London.

The visit's opponents explained on their part that Qaradawi had already attacked Tunisians and Tunisia in his book cited above. They saw this visit as another of the games played by the Tunisian government to win support during the elections, especially since Qaradawi started his visit by going to the premises of radio Zaitouna, established by the Tunisian president's son-in-law Sakhr Materi, who is establishing an Islamic bank in Tunisia. They saw this initiative as a support to these projects, especially that Qaradawi is very popular among Tunisians. Furthermore , they saw in this visit a threatening to the secular environment reigning in Tunisia since the rule of the first president.

Tunisian Debate expressed his opinion through caricatures as usual:

karadhawi1 karadhawi-21

He added:

La dernière visite de l'Imam Qardhawi aurait pu passer inaperçue si elle n'avait revêtu un caractère officiel. En effet, Le tapis mauve que lui a déroulé le ministre de la culture et les Unes que lui ont consacré les médias ont suscité un vif débat dans la blogosphère. Les Laïques y on vu une menace contre les acquis progressistes amenés par Bourguiba tandis que les conservateurs se sont réjouis du retour à la normale de la Tunisie qui se réveille enfin de sa laïque léthargie made in occident. Un dialogue de sourd entre les uns et les autres a noyé toute possibilité d'entente sur la sempiternelle question de la laïcité et de l'Islam.

The last visit of Imam Qardhawi could have gone unnoticed if it had not taken on a official tone. Indeed, the red carpet the minister of culture and the media laid out for him has generated a lively debate in the blogosphere. Secular bloggers saw in it a threat to the progressive gains brought by Bourguiba [former President of Tunisia] while the Conservatives celebrated a return to normal in Tunisia, finally waking up from its “made-in-the-West” secular lethargy. A dialogue of the deaf between them has drowned any hope of agreement on the eternal question of reconciliation between secularism and Islam.

He also talked about authorties’ agenda behind this official invitation:

Le régime en mélangeant les genres entretient des clivages et empêche la société de débattre clairement de ses divergences. Sa stratégie consiste à acheter la paix sociale en usant de toutes les voix discordantes que peut produire le corps social. Il les récupèrera à son compte et les mettra en scène dans un simulacre de démocratie.

By crossing the line, the government preserves cleavages and prevents citizens from clearly discussing their differences. Its strategy is to buy social peace by wearing out all the dissident voices. It will coopt them and then put them on display in a sham democracy.


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