Tunisia: Director Mourad Ben Cheikh, too many foreign funds

Funds to Salaphites from abroad, but more than one secular road

23 April, 19:35

Tunisian film director Mourad Ben Cheikh Tunisian film director Mourad Ben Cheikh

(ANSAmed) - ROME, APRIL 23 - The Salaphites in Tunisia? They are ''a fringe phenomenon'' and a minority, limited to around 2,000. But the real problem is ''the foreign countries that support and finance them with huge resources, putting the country's internal balance at risk and influencing politics''. The speaker is the Tunisian film director Mourad Ben Cheikh, who made the documentary on the revolution in his country entitled ''No more Fear'' which has, since debuting at Cannes, done the rounds of at least a hundred film festivals in the world. One and a half years ago, Ben Cheikh filmed the crowds and the flags of the revolution in Avenue Burghiba. Now, in an interview with ANSAmed, he takes stock of how the country has changed. He says he is not sure whether it is the Saudis who are behind the new prominence of the Salaphites in Tunisia, a country that had been the most secular in the region before the revolution. ''But I do know that through its economic and religious policies, Saudi Arabia has become a cancer in the flesh of the Arab World''. On the other hand, it is in Riyadh that the deposed president Ben Ali has found hospitality, ''because they are very keen that a former head of state does not face a trial''. Another player in Tunisia's future is the small Emirate of Qatar. They ''are doing their utmost to influence politics in the Arab World,'' and not only there. In short, from tyranny of a police state under the overthrown regime, the country risks moving to ''a political stalemate'' under the influence of foreign finance for Islamic movements, the director notes. Ben Cheikh would like to see his country keep its right to find its own way towards democracy. ''Every Tunisian should be free to choose their own approach to politics and to religion,'' and a democracy that shuts out one part of its population would not be a democracy. Just as ''every country should be able to find its own answer to the problem of laity. For example, Queen Elizabeth is head of the Church of England, but individual liberties are respected all the same. And the same happens in Italy, despite its Lateran Pact with the Vatican''. But the West looks at the Arab revolutions through the lens of its own fears and prejudices. Ben Cheikh has seen this in the different reactions of various audiences to his documentary, reactions that ''vary according to the country''. In Spain and in Greece, for example, the revolution in Tunisia is seen with a feeling of geographical ''closeness'' but also with one of continuity between the economic crises and the mode of ''resistance''. But in Germany it is the fear of Islam which prevails, and in France the questioning over the secular nature of the state. ''Frace cannot manage to see Tunisia for what it is: it always sees it through its own current concerns''. Even though, it is thanks to organisations in that very country such as Amnesty International, that has enabled his documentary to be shown in cinemas as part of a regular programme. (ANSAmed).

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