x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Healthy debate over Tunisia's future

Robust secularist and Salafist demonstrations are normal and healthy, as long as they lead only to the ballot box, an Arabic-language commentator says. Other topics: Egypt's cabinet and nuclear security.

Tunisia is in 'healthy' turmoil as secularists and Salafists arm-wrestle ideologically in the streets

Tunisia is witnessing a "war of demonstrations" among various political and ideological forces, the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi said editorially yesterday.

Barely two days after a demonstration by the country's liberals, a "counter-demonstration" was organised by the Salafists who, in their thousands, hit Habib Bourguiba Street in the heart of the capital, calling for the application of Islamic Sharia.

That is the same street where most of the protests against the corrupt regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali took place, bringing his downfall and setting the first spark to a wild protest movement across the Arab world, now known as the Arab Spring.

In their march, the Salafists waved black flags with the inscription "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His Messenger" and placards demanding that Sharia and Islamic teachings be the chief source of legislation, including the constitution.

This, the paper said, "is their response to the country's secular groups who profess that the values of modernity and secularism are being threatened in Tunisia."

In a way, these demonstrations on both ends of the ideological spectrum in Tunisia are "healthy" as far as democratic practice is concerned, the paper noted.

"Each camp is trying to make its voice heard as loudly as possible in a bid to influence the committee tasked with drafting the country's new constitution."

The brighter side of the democratisation process in Tunisia is that it is based on the idea of "gradation", unlike other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt, where interim officials were quick to hold parliamentary elections, the newspaper said.

In Tunisia, the national constituent council, which serves as parliament, will last only one year, with proper parliamentary elections slated for next March.

So what is going on these days in Tunisia is not really turmoil in the negative sense of the word, but "a legitimate show of force" by various political persuasions in a nation that is rising from decades of psychological, economic and ideological repression.

"So long as the ballot boxes will be the final arbiter, there is nothing to fear for Tunisia," the paper said.

"The Tunisian people are well-reputed for their high level of awareness and patriotism, however many differences there may be among them.

"The political hustle and bustle in Tunisia is an indication of vitality and dynamism … so long as it remains within its democratic framework, away from practices like intimidation and bigotry."

It has been reported that some Salafists have recently attempted to attack the national theatre in Tunis, and to impose their views on how women should behave in public or how art should be presented. But these are mere exceptions, and must be denounced for what they are.

Janzouri's government faces harsh criticism

Pressure is increasing for the discharge of Kamal Janzouri's cabinet in Egypt, as the Muslim Brotherhood continues to accuse it of incompetence, columnist Mazen Hammad noted in the Qatari daily Al Watan.

Muslim Brotherhood officials say that the upcoming presidential election and the referendum for the constitution would be dubious under this cabinet.

Egyptians have a lot to say about the government's mishaps and the political weakness that kept it from rising to the expectations of the revolution. Critics blame Mr Janzouri's government for mishandling the Port Said football disaster last February in which over 70 people died. The government also had to respond to a popular backlash following the release of the foreign defendants in the NGOs case.

"Issues like these cause distress and revulsion not only among those who feel that suspect powers are trying to expropriate their revolution, but also among the various political segments that came to life when Mr Mubarak left power," suggested the writer.

It is only normal that the Muslim Brotherhood, revolutionary youth and public opinion would all be irate with the several attempts to foil the revolution.

"Egypt seems to be heading into fierce political and financial battles where the Brotherhood and the rebels may have the upper hand in enforcing the will of the people and of the revolution," the writer concluded.

Nuclear security is the responsibility of all

About nuclear-materials security, the subject of yesterday's international summit in Seoul, there are questions about the double standard when it comes to possession of nuclear power, said the Emirati daily Al Bayan editorially.

"The dangers of possessing nuclear weapons far surpass the benefits that any country could hope for. The nuclear deterrence principle made a destructive country such as Israel acquire a nuclear arsenal capable of destroying the entire region," argued the paper.

In truth, the dangers that may come out of Israel's nuclear programme are more likely to happen now, as we are reminded by the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Israel's Dimona reactor is quite worn out. Its building is in bad shape and its equipment has been eroded, which threatens an environmental disaster in the region.

Nuclear security is a vital necessity for all humanity. It is in no way restricted to one state or system. It is a responsibility that must be assumed by all the nations of the world, away from any political calculations.

True nuclear security can be achieved only once the world, especially the most powerful nations, gets rid of their reserves of radioactive substances.



* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem