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Tunisia: Past, Present, Future

Thursday, 02 June 2011 10:24
Published in News

Lecturer at the advanced level of Fiqh and legal theories speaking about Tunisia said that Tunisia was considered to be a French protectorate and that Tunisian people managed to do away with the old colonialism but they have now fallen in the trap of new colonialism.

At the beginning of his postgraduate lecture, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani explained about the cultural, political and social conditions of Tunisia and highlighted the duties of the Islamic seminaries in the present circumstance as such:

The Cultural Atmosphere of Tunisia

Speaking about the cultural atmosphere of Tunisia, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani noted that unlike what is proclaimed by media, Tunisia is not in a troubled and inflammable atmosphere. The demonstrations are held in the capital and one other city. The protests are organized and held in one of the central streets of the capital. For example, last Friday there was a demonstration held following a speech by the interior minister of the country but the protests were suppressed by security forces.

What happened in Tunisia was not expected by the Tunisian people themselves because their revolution achieved victory very soon. That was because of Bin Ali's very sudden escape from the country which caused Tunisians to be taken aback and shocked.

Ayatollah Hadavi pointed out that there are few wall writings in the cities of Tunisia. In those few slogans left on the walls, Ben Ali's removal from power until 2014 has been considered an aspiration for Tunisians.

Tunisia and Political Conditions

Touching on the political situation of Tunisia, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani said that Tunisia "is faced with a serious political ordeal as the country's affairs are tackled by a transitional government".

He pointed out that the transitional government would be replaced with an elected government and that the present government is making every effort to maintain law and order in the country. "In recent days, however, some reporters have been beaten and their offices closed by the interior minister which led to public protests. He is very much likely to be removed from office," he added.

Tunisia and the Intellectual Currents

Referring to intellectual and cultural situation in Tunisia, Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani said: "There is an extremist group in Tunisia that is pushing for the removal of all former government officials from power. This demand has caused fear and concern among people because of the negative consequences that it may entail, if met."

He pointed out that the Islamic currents enjoy good power as they have good political positions in the country. "The main concern is the influence of radical currents that have been activated by Saudi agents in public and private centers; they are posing a menace to the country" he noted.

"Although the radical groups enjoy very little support in the country, they are financially well off because they are backed by the Saudi regime," Ayatollah Hadavi said.

He further noted, "Given that freedom has come to Tunisia and people have already done away with the suffocating period of Ben Ali, there is the fear of the influence of religious extremism and creation of fundamentalist regimes like that of the Taliban."

Head of the Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institute said that there are moderate groups in Tunisia but since the legal structure of the country is based on group affiliation only those individuals who are on the list of parties can take part in the elections.

He further said, "Tunisia was one of the French colonies, and Tunisian people could do away with the old colonialism but they have now fallen in the trap of new colonialism."

"Today, the political colonialism has turned into cultural colonialism and there is no doubt that cultural colonialism has an impact on politics also," Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani said.

"The colonialists are apparently not interfering in the affairs of people but they do have a very strong influence in the country," he added.

Ayatollah Hadavi noted, the country's first language is Arabic, but nearly seventy percent of the language is mixed with French words, and French is the second language of people.

Culturally, the French culture is prevalent in this country. Much of what is seen in Paris can be seen in the big cities of Tunisia.

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani pointed out that Tunisia's popular movement was a movement against oppression. He said that today people are free and everyone is acting according to his own opinion and taste. There is no doubt that there is a growing tendency towards Islam.

Referring to his visit to Tunisia five years ago, he said, "Today, the country's airport gates are controlled by scarf-wearing women whereas the situation was not as such five years ago when I visited this country."

Speaking about his meeting with the president of Ez-Zitouna University, Ayatollah Hadavi said, "The presence of women with Islamic modest dress and the congregational prayers held in this university are clear signs manifesting tendency towards Islam."

The idea of separation between religion and politics is seen in Tunisia

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani said that Ez-Zitouna Mosque had been one of the biggest seminaries in the past and it had been built long before Al-Azhar University. He noted, he saw no congregational prayers in this mosque during his previous visit to Tunisia but today crowds of people come to the mosque to attend congregational prayers and lines of the prayer holders stretch outside of the mosque. "The Friday Prayer held in the center of the city was so crowded that people were standing and the individuals in charge of the mausoleum were forced to shut its doors in the middle of the sermons," he stated.

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani said that the idea of separation between religion and politics exists practically in the country. "During the Friday prayer sermons, no one other than Abdul Wahhab Fotu delivers a political sermon. The person who delivered the sermons on that Friday spoke nothing about political and social issues despite that the people were supposed to take out a procession. The situation was such that no slogan was chanted inside the mosque and the people went out until they reached a distance. Thereupon they started raising slogans and voicing their demands," he stated.

We need to look more closely at the global situation.

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani elaborated on the essentials which the Islamic Republic of Iran should take into consideration in regards to the developments in Tunisia. He said, "One of the problems which we are faced with in the country in general and in the Islamic Seminary (al-Hawzah al-Ilmiyah) in particular is lack of familiarity with other countries' atmosphere and that we look at the world from our own angle of vision".

He said that Tunisia is a country with French culture still being prevalent in it and today people are experiencing freedom after forty years. He said that the media have an effective role to play at this juncture.

Transferring Iran's experience to Tunisia is helpful.

Lecturer at the advanced level of Fiqh and legal theories in the Islamic seminary said, "Unfortunately, the Islamic Republic of Iran is not seen outside of the country in the sense that the Western and Arabic media do not have anything to do with Iran except for when there should take place an incident which they may magnify in pursuit of their own of interest."

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehran said that the Western scientific figures have but very little information about Iran. "I had a meeting with Persian learning students and I came to know that some of them were highly educated and even some of them were leading members of political parties, yet they were not familiar with Iran-related issues," he stated.

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani noted, one of the current-day needs that should be addressed is to promulgate and preach Islam's perspective so as to be able to interact with the world.

He added, "Today, the overall situation of the Tunisian society is very much like the situation that existed in Iran during the early period of the Islamic revolution. There is a lot of apprehension and anxiety as to the prospect of the Tunisian revolution. What is helpful is to transfer the experience of the Islamic revolution of Iran to this country."

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani further said, "We have not been successful in documenting the achievements of the Islamic revolution. It is necessary that what have been compiled so far in Persian be translated into Arabic."

"I told the ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran a number of times that Iran's constitution should be widely distributed in Tunisia so that the people may see how Iran has combined between Islam and the requirements of the modern time," he further noted.

He stressed that transferring the achievements of Islamic Iran can help Tunisia effectively. "Unfortunately, the ambassador told me that he had contacted the Foreign Ministry and they had told him that they did not have the Arabic translation of the constitution whereas I have seen the translation in Arabic and English."

"I believe we should not expect Tunisians to follow the Iranian model because they have been badly frightened of Iran," he added.

Salafis are at work in Tunisia

Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani pointed out that the Tunisian people are of a moderate nature and that, generally speaking, there should not exist any opportunity for the Salafi extremists to be active in this country. But the Salafis had been working in Tunisian society and at this time they have stepped up their efforts. "Tunisians are very much interested in Islam. Their taking part in Friday prayers in a country, which like the Western countries has set Sunday as its holiday, is a clear sign of the people's attachment and affinity to Islamic doctrines."

Head of the Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institute said, "The situation of Tunisia is complex and if things do not go well, the results would not be positive."

"In order to promote the culture of the Ahlul-Bayt (a.s.) and disseminate the Islamic revolution model, the students of the Islamic seminaries should master Arabic language and keep away from irrational deterrent thoughts," he stressed.[1]

Office of Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani

Related Link: Rasa News Agency

[1] - Speech of Ayatollah Hadavi Tehrani in the beginning of Kharij lesson about his trip to Tunisia and visiting scientific and cultural centers (dated 2 May 2011)