Tunisia’s Ennahda slams ‘anti-Semitic’ chants

Tunisian journalists demonstrate to demand more press freedom outside the prime minister’s residence in Tunis on Monday (AP photo by Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS — The head of Tunisia’s moderate Islamist party condemned “anti-Semitic slogans” chanted Monday by a handful of ultraconservative Muslims during the arrival of a top Hamas official that have alarmed the local Jewish community.

It was the latest action by a small group of ultraconservative Muslims over the past few months to have embarrassed the government in what was once one of the more secular countries in the Arab world.

Rachid Ghannouchi reiterated the policy of his Ennahda Party, which heads the country’s new government, that Tunisia’s Jews are “full citizens with equal rights and duties”.

“Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam’s spirit or teachings, and considers those who raised them as a marginal group,” Ghannouchi said in a statement.

Videos circulated online showed crowd members greeting Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Gaza government, at the airport in Tunis on Thursday chanting “Kill the Jews” and “Crush the Jews”.

The chants came from Salafists, ultraconservative Muslims who have been making their presence felt in Tunisia recently.

“It is worse than bad, it is catastrophic for Tunisia — particularly in regard to the repercussions that these attitudes provoke abroad,” Roger Bismuth, president of Tunisia’s Jewish community, told AP.

He said he was received late Monday by Ghannouchi and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who promised to resolve the situation — possibly with an address to the nation.

Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on the island of Djerba where most live, described the slogans as “unreasonable” and said the government “could not let it pass”.

After decades of being oppressed by Tunisia’s secular dictators, Ennahda won elections and has been at pains to demonstrate its moderate credentials and belief in universal rights and freedoms for all Tunisians.

They have been repeatedly embarrassed by ultraconservative Islamic groups that have emerged since hard-line President Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power last year in an uprising in Tunisia that led to revolts around the Arab world.



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