Tunisia opts for civil law over sharia in constitution

Tunisian members of parliament rejected Islam as the main source of law for the country on Dec. 4 as they voted to establish a new constitution. The Islamist-led party and secular parties overcame intense debate about Islam's role in the country before beginning to draft the new constitution. The National Constituent Assembly adopted only 12 of the proposed 146 articles despite a Jan. 14 deadline for the completion of the new constitution. The first clause of the constitution says Tunisia is "a free country, independent, with sovereignty; Islam is its religion, Arabic its language and the republic its regime." However, Article 6 makes the state the "guardian of religion," "protector of the sacred" and guarantor of "freedom of conscience." The Tunisian government employed heavy security in the capital Tunis during the parliament assembly to deter attacks from radical Islamists opposed to the adoption of the new constitution in place of Islam law.

From Jurist, Jan. 5. Used with permission.

  1. Another win for secularism in Tunisia

    Tunisia's secularist party Nidaa Tounes has won 85 seats in the country's parliament following Oct. 26 elections, official results show. The governing Islamist Ennahda party won 69 seats in the 217-seat chamber. The official results confirm earlier predictions and Ennahda officials have already urged Nidaa Tounes to form an inclusive government. "In with the old" is what some Tunisians have been saying about Nidaa Tounes, in reference to the fact that supporters of the regime of deposed President Ben Ali were allowed to join the party and run for office. But their inclusion has been controversial and the party will still need to find coalition partners to be able to govern. (BBC News, Oct. 30)

  2. Another win for secularism in Tunisia?

    In what is being hailed as a milestone in Tunisia's democratic transition, Beji Caid Essebsi of the secular Nidaa Tounes party in 2014 is to take office after winning the country's first free presidential poll. He secured victory last week over incumbent interim president Moncef Marzouki. Caid Sebsi, 88, served as interior minister under srtongman Habib Bourguiba, who ruled the country for 30 years after independence from France in 1956. (The Economist) Needless to say, Caid Sebsi has played down this past, but he appears to be what in more polarized Egypt is called feloul. We are heartened by the secular direction in Tunisia, but we recall the Oct. 21 New York Times story, "New Freedoms in Tunisia Drive Support for ISIS." It claimed: "Tunisia has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State."