Tunisia: crossroads of fanatical preachers and jihadists

Fall of Ben Ali opened the doors to Islamic extremism

28 March, 19:31

(ANSAmed) - TUNIS, March 28 - For more than twenty years the gates of secular Tunisia defended by Zine El Abidine Ben Ali were shut to those who wanted to make a banner of Islam. But the fall of the dictator and, above all the emergence of the religious Ennahdha party as the largest force in the country, has upset everything and as a consequence it has become more obvious that Tunisia has become a place of welcome for all: fanatical preachers, inciters of violence in the name of Allah, jihadists, and supporters of female genital mutilation.

The situation could become even more incandescent with the continuing confrontations between Islamic fundamentalists and secularists, which only by chance have not yet led to a drama.

Everything now seems allowed, especially for the people who Ben Ali had kept well away from Tunisian borders. So Tarek Maaroufi just released from prison Belgium, where he served ten years for terrorism, flew to Tunis, where he was greeted by a score of Salafites with tears in their eyes. Having passed through international arrivals, Maaroufi kneeled to pray and kiss the ground. And just to stop anyone from thinking that the prison had induced him to change his mind, he said he was happy to have seen that jihad is also in the minds of Tunisians. He may or may not be right, but his profile (he was accused of ties with al Qaeda and complicity' in the death of Commander Massoud, who was killed two days before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in America) should lead to a great attention to he may do in the near future.

Another element to reflect on is the exponential increase in the workload of the Tunisian border police at the capital's airport, where the arrival of controversial preachers, previously denied entry, is an everyday issue. Two arrived on Sunday. The first, Heni Sbai, Founder of the Maqrizi Centre for Historical Studies, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Egypt and is wanted by various countries for "active collaboration" with the Taliban and al Qaeda. A few hours later landed another Abd El Mustafa Mun'em Halima Abu Bassir alias Abu Bassir El Tartus, a preacher of Yemeni origin, who likes to say that ''more' half of the Koran and hundreds of words of the Prophet call to jihad and the fight against tyrants.'' In both cases, they were greeted by celebrating Salafites, happy to have obtained 'passes' for their favourites from the police.

In a country that is debating its profile (Islamic or Arabic), the preachers find all too fertile soil in the absence of a response from the state, also urged by the leader of Ennahdha, Rached Gannouchi. Too many threats receive no response from the institutions: on Sunday a sheikh called Tunisians prepare to kill the Jews and on the same occasion a preacher wished the death (he later explained that he was speaking in political terms) of former premier Beji Caid Essebsi. And the air is still filled with the insane propositions of an Egyptian Wahhabi preacher, Wajdi Ghenim, who came to Tunisia to say, before frenzied crowds, that female genital mutilation is not only imposed by the Koran, but are longed for because they are cosmetic surgery operations. (ANSAmed).

© Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved