A direct challenge to the secular character of the Tunisian state. “Tunisia security forces chase Islamist protesters: ‘We want freedom for the hijab … and the beard,'” from Reuters, January 29:
TUNIS — Tunisian security forces chased groups of protesters through central Tunis on Friday and fired tear gas, after dispersing hundreds of demonstrators holding a 24-hour sit-in outside government offices, witnesses said.
The march was the first significant Islamist protest since the fall of president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who ran a strictly secular state in which Islamists were often jailed or forced into exile.
Some carried placards reading: “We want freedom for the hijab, the niqab and the beard.”
Under Ben Ali’s rule, women who covered their hair by wearing the hijab, in the Muslim tradition, were denied jobs or education. Men with long beards were stopped by police.
“We demand the revision of the terrorism law … and say no to the war on the niqab,” one woman told Reuters TV, her face entirely covered by a black veil, or niqab.
Islamists played no visible part in the “Jasmine Revolution” that toppled Ben Ali, but when the Ennahda, the country’s largest Islamist movement, was allowed to contest elections in 1989, it came second to the ruling party….