Thursday, September 6, 2012

More "moderate" Islamists in Tunisia

[Originally posted at NOW Lebanon]

“Even the Islamists are highly civilized!” Edward Said is said to have once told Christopher Hitchens in recommending Tunisia. It’s a refrain we’ve often heard since the Islamist “Ennahda” (“Awakening”) party won the parliamentary elections last October. Relax, we’re told. Islamists these days are just liberals with a twist of spirituality. Dreamers, who recite the Quran for the ecstasy of the poetry, and wisely steer clear of the “militant” and “blinkered” secularism of the West.

A fine example of this “high civilization” arrived this week in the form of a good old-fashioned puritanical mob rampage, in which “bearded men burst into” Sidi Bouzid’s Hotel Horchani, “smashing bottles” of alcohol “and chasing away customers, before raiding the reception and the upstairs rooms, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ‘Al-Sharab haram’ [drinking is a sin],” in the words of the AFP report.

The report added that a group of self-described “Salafi jihadis” proudly claimed responsibility for the attack, boasting that “it was done in response to the demands of the people.”

A few bad apples, you may say. Nothing to do with the tree-huggers over at Ennahda. Except that Wael Amami, the spokesperson for the attackers, had his life sentence amnestied following the overthrow of ex-President Ben Ali, an act that wouldn’t have been possible without Ennahda’s blessing. What’s more, Amami further bragged that “police don’t interfere” when he and his friends take vigilante action against illegal alcohol vendors elsewhere. AFP’s report ends by saying “the Islamist-led coalition government” has been accused of “not doing enough to rein [Salafists] in.”

Well I’ll be damned.

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