Tunisia: melee disrupts constitutional debate

MPs lose their aplomb over article on apostasy and Islam

22 January, 19:18

    Tunisian MPs attend a session (archive) Tunisian MPs attend a session (archive)

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - A melee between secular and religious Tunisian lawmakers last night disrupted voting on a draft constitution, underscoring tensions over the role of Islam and the transition to democracy three years after the nation's revolution.
    Peppered with shouts, fits of tears, chants of 'Allahu Akbar' (God is great), shoving matches, and MPs leaving the room, the debate foundered on an article banning accusations of apostasy, which means renouncing one's religion.
    Religious MPs said the article is ''contrary to Islam'', while secular ones said allowing the charge of apostasy in the constitution would mean giving jihadists license to kill.
    Elected in October 2011, the constituent assembly was expected to come up with a final draft within a year, but its work has been stymied by infighting, social unrest, and the assassination last year of two secular politicians, allegedly killed by hardline Islamist militants, whose violent proliferation since the 2011 uprising has widened the rift between Islamist and secular parties.
    The ruling moderate Islamist Ennahda party having agreed to step down, approving the constitution is a key step before a caretaker government takes office to prepare for new elections later this year.
    Deputy Assembly Speaker Meherzia Labidi, who is from the Ennahda party, ended up adjourning the session to Wednesday. (ANSAmed).

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