Religious officials in Tunisia are divided over the recent arrest of a Salafi imam, who was detained earlier this week amidst what critics say is a government effort to control local mosques.
Khamis El Mejri was arrested on Monday in a city north of the capital Tunis for “preaching without a permit,” according to Mongi Belaress, spokesperson for the first court of Bizerte.
El Mejri’s arrest is the latest in a series of moves taken by the government to exert control on mosques and imams that the government deems “extremist”.
“El Mejri’s arrest is against the essence [of] democracy and against freedom of speech,” said Tayyib Ghozi, an imam at the influential Al Uqba mosque in Kairouan, the oldest in North Africa. “He’s just an imam who loves his religion and wants the best interests of Muslims.”
Abdessalem El Atoui, the secretary-general of the union for religious officials, which includes all government-sanctioned preachers, said El Mejri was not part of the union.