Souad Abderrahim -- one of the most prominent and controversial feminine figure of the Ennahda party in Tunisia, a mother of two, and a pharmacist by profession -- was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly. During the electoral campaign, she represented the modern image of Ennahda: she does not wear a veil. "We are not going to reinstate polygamy and we will not impose the veil to women," she used to say in answer to the worries expressed by Tunisian women and secularists
However, last November 9th on Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, Abderrahim created a controversy when she said that single mothers are a disgrace to Tunisia and "do not have the right to exist." She added that, "I am ashamed of Arab and Muslim countries that try to make excuses for people who have sinned." She insisted that only rape victims should be entitled to protection under the law, but not single mothers. She also stated that laws in Tunisia should be based on Arab-Muslim traditions, and that in Tunisia "there is no room for full and absolute freedom."
In Tunisia, on the average, four babies a day are born out of wedlock, yet Souad Aberrahim denies the existence of one-parent families. For her, within a Muslim society, "family should not be formed outside of marriage."
Souad Abderrahim recently gave an interview to Algerian daily El Watan, where she presented herself and her political credo:
"Ennahda doesn't speak in the name of Islam, there is a program and it defines itself not as a religious party, but as a party with a religious reference," she said, "It is in favor of civil rights and of ijtihad [ijtihad is a technical term of the Islamic law and means the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the sources of the law, the Quran and the Sunna]. Wearing a veil is not compulsory, it is a personal matter, I myself am not veiled,"she went on, adding that "for us, secularism does not mean a total breaking-off with religion. We don't want religion to dominate the State, but we also don't want religion to be dominated by the state."
However, answering questions on whether she would like to retain the law concerning the personal status, she said that:
"[Ennahda] would like to change the article concerning adoption, because it is not in line with the Muslim religion."
Then, on answering whether she thought there should be equality for men and women concerning inheritance, as some feminists are suggesting, she again brought up religious explanations, despite the fact that she claimed that Ennahda does not speak in the name of Islam. Further, she said that there is a sort of Western plot to adbicate equal rights in terms of inheritance, something that she apparently does not want to happen, as would entail a secular reform.
"In the Koran there is a very clear verse on this subject. Feminist associations that are requesting full equality regarding to inheritance are only a minority and do not represent Tunisian women. This is not a request coming from the Tunisian public. It is a project of Western, French, inspiration. Ennahda is in favor of men and women complementing each other in partnership,"she said.
When the interviewer asked her as a last question how she saw the future of Tunisia, she replied:
"It will be Arab and Muslim. Its engine will be a modern Islam. Previously, political projects were imported from France, such as total freedom for women and support for single mothers. In our society, we cannot defend unmarried mothers or the child that carries his mother's name. This is not in conformity with our Tunisian identity. Some other parties are raising false problems. I defend freedom of expression in the framework of the permanent features and social values of Tunisia, which are not necessarily Muslim, but when it comes to placing the statue of a naked woman on a public square my answer is no! [Souad Abderrahim makes an allusion to the proposal of an artist who intended to place the statue of a naked woman in Habib Bourghiba square] I am against radicalism. […]"
How ironic that, after giving an extremist, radical speech, Abderrahim thinks of herself as a liberal -- and, like many self-described liberals who do not even realize how totalitarian and intolerant of any dissenting opinion they have become ("a fish does not know he is wet") -- announces that she is "against radicalism."