Tunisia: Secular and Islamist Students Clash at University
Hundreds of Tunisian students clashed at a university over Islamists students’ demands for segregated classes and the right for women to wear full-face veils. Witnesses stated that the demonstration at Manouba university near Tunis broke down into fighting between secularists and Islamists. Students in Tunisia are not permitted to cover their face, and one student said “we want respect for a student’s freedom to wear a veil like other students,” while secular students responded to the Islamists by singing the national anthem. The recent clashes come as students “besieged a building” at the same university, and held people hostage over the same issues.
As Tunisia grapples with the rising tension between secularists and Islamists, Elizabeth Bryant of the Washington Post argues that “Tunisia is a test for what moderate Islam looks like.” Much of the spotlight is on Ennahda over if it will keep its promises for a pro-Western Tunisia and uphold women’s rights. Mansouria Mokhefi, head of Middle East and North Africa programs at the French Institute of International Affairs, commented on what Islam could look like in Tunisia: “Whether it will be moderate Islam as appears the case in Tunisia and Turkey or another form is unclear…But it’s an inevitable, unstoppable march by Muslims, young and old, toward what they feel is a reappropriation of their identity.”