Thousands of Salafists calling to include Sharia Law in the new Tunisian Constitution gathered in front of the National Constituent Assembly on March 16. As reported by the Agence France-Presse, the slogans called to have the Koran as the country's only constitution. "The people want the application of God's Sharia," "Our Koran is our constitution" "No constitution without Sharia," and "Tunisia is neither secular nor scientific, it is an Islamic state," the demonstrators cried. Revealing that Tunisia's government supports Sharia Law in the Constitution, two MPs, Sahbi Atig and Habib Ellouze, members of the Islamist party, Ennahda, were among the protesters.
Following are excerpts from an op-ed that appeared in the North African magazine, Le Courrie de l'Atlas, reporting on the Salafists' "show of strength" during the demonstration in the streets of Tunisia:
"On this sunny afternoon, Bardo [Tunisian city/suburb west of Tunis] looked like Afghanistan. Following a call launched by Salafists on social networks, a flood of people, around midday, gathered in Bardo to put pressure on Tunisian MPs and demand that Sharia be included as the only source of law.
"[…] According to Salafists' Internet pages, there were 30.000 protesters. Never before had Bardo Square been so filled with people. The crowd was compact and excited. When all the protesters started shouting together "Allahhu Akbar!" [Allah is the Greatest!"], they sent shockwaves through the floor. […] The event was marked by a strongly missionary spirit […].
"The few foreign media that attended this event were astonished by the separation between men and women in the demonstration [Organizers of the protest had arranged separated sections for men and women]. However, the men incited the women systematically to repeat slogans, such as "The people want the enforcement of Sharia…" […]. There were also many slogans […] very hostile to secular people and meant to demonize them".
Some worrisome abuses
"1. Zitouna FM Koranic radio, a radio station that was put under judiciary control after the revolution, and which belongs to the state, had launched a call to demonstrate a few days earlier. This is an unprecedented decision […]
"2. […] Each and every demonstration [after the Revolution] had been followed by a counter-demonstration conducted by pro-government elements, with the exception of this one. […]
"3. [Protesters were intimidating journalists] when our camera was taking longer shots of somebody, it was not rare that this person came immediately to us asking for our papers and for whom we were working.
"4. […] Ennahda's most radical base was represented. This allows predicting that, considering the increasing popularity of the Salafist movement, the Islamic party Ennahda will have to compromise more and more with these movements that are harming the image of moderation that the party, ever since it came to power, is trying to promote. […]
"Today was a black day [for Tunisia][…]. Tunisia that belongs to a non-secularized region, by opening to democracy, changed its face […], and now the country's main components are Islamist and extremist."