Tunisia’s ruling Ennahda to oppose sharia in constitution

By REUTERS ARABNEWS

TUNIS: The moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which leads Tunisia’s government, said on Monday it would oppose naming Islamic law, or sharia, in the new constitution, an issue that has threatened to derail the country’s transition to democracy.

A constituent assembly, elected in October, is hashing out a new constitution after popular protests ousted Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali last year, sparking the Arab Spring uprisings.

Religious conservatives, including the third largest party in the constituent assembly, have called in recent weeks for the constitution to include sharia as the key source of legislation.

Secularists oppose the move, which they say will open the way for the religious right to impose its values on what had been one of the Arab world’s most secular countries.

The debate has polarised Tunisian society and prompted people to demonstrate in the streets.

Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s co-founder and leader, said the group would instead be satisfied with retaining the existing first clause of the constitution, which identifies Islam as the religion of state but makes no mention of the role of sharia.

“We saw that Tunisians were divided over the issue of sharia. We don’t want Tunisian society to be split because the revolution can only succeed with national unity,” Ghannouchi told a news conference at the party’s headquarters in Tunis.

“The Tunisian people are united over Islam and we don’t want to include another term that will divide the Tunisian people.”

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