Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2014

New Constitution Tunisia omits Sharia Law, may protect religious minorities

The Arab Spring was three years ago and now, in the wake of the new Egyptian constitution, Tunisia is close to passing a new constitution which excludes Islam as the “main source of law”, but states it is the State’s duty to “protect the sacred”.

Tunisians were promised that their long-awaited constitution would be ready by the third anniversary and this appears to omit Sharia Law, which has been welcomed by religious minorities and secularists.

Tunisia map CIA

Tunisia map CIA

Article 6 “prohibits any form of accusation of apostasy and incitement to violence”, while the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings are both rejected as “sources of law”.

The new constitution, which has taken two years to conclude, comes almost three years to the day since the fall of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, itself 10 days after the death of a Tunisian vegetable seller, which began the movement that would sweep across North Africa and into the Middle East.

Since the revolution of 2011, the question of whether the State would be seen as the “protector of the sacred” has caused great controversy between Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party which came to power after the first post-Ben Ali general election (and which still leads the interim government), and the broadly secular opposition.

As well as being the “protector of the sacred”, the constitution appoints the State as “guarantor of religion” and “guarantor of freedom of conscience” and promises the “neutrality of places of worship in relation to political manipulation”.

However Article 1e of the new constitution (an Article which cannot be amended) specifies that Islam is the “religion of the State”.

The Catholic Church has spoken out in support of the new constitution, which is seen to guarantee freedom of belief.

“We see the respect of every person, whatever his belief, as the foundation of moral legitimacy and every social and legal standard,” said Father Nicolas Lhernould, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Tunis.

However, some have criticised Article 6 as “confusing”.

“We must remove the vagueness of this article, which gives the State the right to ‘guarantee’ religion and ‘protect the sacred’, which can lead to threatening interpretations of citizenship and freedom,” said the Tunisian League of Human Rights.

Fr. Lhernould said that the constitution was a step in the right direction. “A formula is never absolute; it is its application that counts,” he said. “The situation of religious minorities, and their development, is an important indicator of the quality of a democratic framework.”

However, this part of the constitution was not welcomed by Tunisia’s Wafa party. “This freedom allows Satanists to organise public events to spread their beliefs,” they said.

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About the Author

- Writer and Co-Founder of The Global Dispatch, Brandon has been covering news, offering commentary for years, beginning professionally in 2003 on Crazed Fanboy before expanding into other blogs and sites. Appearing on several radio shows, Brandon has hosted Dispatch Radio, written his first novel (The Rise of the Templar) and completed the three years Global University program in Ministerial Studies to be a pastor. To Contact Brandon email [email protected] ATTN: BRANDON

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  1. Tunisia’s Constitution | David's Commonplace Book says:

    […] New Constitution Tunisia omits Sharia Law, may protect religious minorities (theglobaldispatch.com) […]

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