The Fruits of Tunisia’s Uprising: An Extraordinary Constitution

 

Tunisia_Constitution

The Fruits of Tunisia’s Uprising: An Extraordinary Constitution

By Garibaldi

Before the Arab Uprisings a narrative almost as well known as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was indoctrinated into the minds of many US and European citizens; the claim that Arabs and Muslims were inclined to tyranny and dictatorship. Columnist David Brooks of the New York Times encapsulated this frame of mind, about Egyptians he wrote, “they don’t have the mental ingredients for democracy.”

Islamophobes were appalled by the uprisings which saw their myths and prejudices regarding “subservient” Arabs and Muslims who either “only know dictatorship or theocracy” fall apart. Bigots such as Deacon Spencer were quick to claim that these nations would quickly be living inIranian-style theocracies.

While the uprisings and revolutions have faltered or are continuing at varied paces in most of the nations that have seen uprisings, the country that birthed the momentous wave of protest and upheaval, Tunisia, has achieved a tremendous milestone: a Constitution through consensus and hard, political work.

Tunisia was well placed for this achievement, considering its history of Constitutionalism,

Tunisia was the first Arab country ever to draft its own constitution – the qanoon al-dawla al-tunisiyya, or ‘law of the Tunisian state’ – which came into force in 1861.”

The process took two years, every jot and tittle was fought over and at times the impasse between the secularist opposition and the Ennahda led government seemed to be teetering on the brink of disaster and all out chaos: a happy prospect for those who have a seething hate for Arabs, Muslims and Islam and cheer on whenever they see disorder.

The naysayers were disappointed when the Ennahda led coalition and Nida Tounes negotiated a deal under the auspices of civil society organizations that paved the way for: a resignation of the government, a completion to the Constitution and an interim care-taker government of technocrats until fresh elections will be held later this year.

So what happened when Tunisia passed its constitution? Wallah! The praise has come in from all quarters: The New York TimesFrance24The EconomistThe Washington PostFox News, etc. had forgotten their age old prejudices and “congratulated” Tunisians.

Equally as important as the Constitution is to Tunisians it is also an example to the nations in the region. It shows that if one is ready to negotiate, compromise, to see beyond the simplistic demonizations of one’s opponent, you can overcome religious, ethnic, ideological and political divisions.

The outcome is a document that the vast majority of Tunisians have unanimously accepted and, crucially, has popular legitimacy.

The document isn’t perfect and contains some self-contradictions that highlight fissures and insecurities in Tunisian society. For instance what does it mean to protect ‘freedom of conscience and speech’ and at the same time outlaw takfir (declaring a Muslim to be a non-Muslim)? What does it mean for the state to ensure the “neutrality of mosques” and “protect sanctities?”

On the other hand it is a document that is confident in its identity, history and heritage, enshrines freedom of religion, conscience, individual rights, minority rights, gender parity, and a separation of powers.

It rivals any constitution in ambition and scope, and is more progressive in several ways than our own 226 year-old US Constitution that still contains outdated language stating for instance that slaves are the equivalent of “3/5ths” of a full vote. A few years ago the Congressional reading of the Constitution omitted this section which caused some right-wingers, like Glenn Beck, to throw a fit. Maybe it’s time we had another Constitutional convention ourselves?

The future for Tunisia is still wide open and by no means have Tunisians arrived at a moment in which the aims of their uprising have been fully realized,

Measured against the aims of the revolution, the constitution can be said to have met a number of key expectations. But for those in the marginalized parts of the country, seeking tangible improvement in their social and economic situation, the constitution is not going to do that-not immediately at least-and, in truth, does not guarantee it on the long-run. The state, in Article 12, promises no more than “striving to,” rather than the much demanded “commits to” achieve regional balance within the framework of positive discrimination.

The hope is that the spirit of negotiation, determination and compromise will continue until those aims are reached. However, what can be said is that despite tremendous pressures from the West, regional neighbors and fissures within Tunisian society, Tunisians have made it happen — and that is something not only to congratulate but to emulate.

Video: Tunisia Gets New Constitution

Islamophobes Re-Title and Re-Package the Beheading of a Shia in Syria as Slaughter of Christian Convert in Tunisia

by Garibaldi

The deception and depths of depravity and lying to which Islamophobes will devolve into knows no bounds. We have covered this specific well-worn Islamophobic pattern of lies and mischaracterizations numerous times; the Gaza Mass Pedophilia Wedding lie, the Nigerian Muslims burn hundreds of Christians lie, the John Hopkins Muslim Doctor Supports FGM lie, the Muslim Brotherhood Crucify Opponents lie and we can go on and on. In fact, at some point I want to collect all these stories and index them for easier Loonwatcher use.

In another such lie, in June, Islamophobes started spreading a video titled: “Graphic video: Muslims slaughter Christian convert in moderate Tunisia”. I won’t post the video itself, as it is too gruesome, but the link is provided for whoever wishes to see it for themselves. This title when searched on Google produces 7,000 results. When one searches “beheading+Christian+Tunisia” or similar search terms one comes across more than 300,000 results.

The Anatomy of a Lie

The video of the beheading actually surfaced in May, not June, and was titled “‘Free Syrian Army’ Behead a Civilian.” For anyone who has knowledge of the region, the video is definitely not from Tunisia. As the original YouTube user who uploaded the video, TimeToFightBack1 wrote in an update to the video, “the dialect, the terrain and the clothing are all suggestive of Syria.” The murderers refer to their victim as “Rafidi” a demeaning term used exclusively to refer to Shias, and in the mouths of AlQaeda and their affiliate extremists is also usually accompanied by proclamations of  being “renegades” and “apostates,” all the more to cheapen the life of their victims and to justify the spilling of their blood. (h/t: MAbdullah)

The perpetrators of this beheading were likely one of the AlQaeda linked or influenced groups who have infiltrated the Free Syrian Army or claim to be part of the Free Syrian Army (a very underreported and undocumented phenomenon in Western media).

The video failed to go viral in its original manifestation, perhaps because it doesn’t jibe with the prevailing narrative of a united, just, and Free Syrian Army fighting for democracy, rule of law and to overthrow the despotic Bashar al-Assad.

In early June, Egyptian T.V. (Masr al-Youm, “Egypt Today”) personality Tawfiq Okasha played part of the beheading video on his TV show. Okasha is well known for his over-the-top animosity and virulent disdain for Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. He described the beheading as happening in Tunisia, nowhere did he identify how he came to this conclusion, but in light of his political agenda it is clear why he would forward such a narrative.

Understanding the political context in Egypt gives us some clues. Okasha was using the video, in the lead up to the second round of Egyptian presidential elections to forward a fear-mongering premise to his Egyptian viewers, essentially telling them: look at what is happening in Tunisia as a result of the Islamist party of Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, ‘Al-Nahda’ having won elections, radicals are killing civilians and minorities. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins the upcoming presidential election you can expect the same thing in Egypt.” A few weeks after this aired, on June 24 Mohammed Morsi was declared president. Okasha recently announced the formation of a new political party, Egyptian National People’s Party, presenting himself as Egypt’s “champion against a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Raymond Ibrahim (the same individual who forwarded the Muslim Brotherhood Crucify Opponents hoax), a Coptic-American and long time writer on JihadWatch got a hold of the video, and the rest is history. The video that originally was posted in May as “Free Syrian Army Beheads a Civilian” had completely transformed into a viral news story in the looniverse, “Graphic Video: Muslims Behead Christian Convert in ‘Moderate’ Tunisia.”

One can easily discern the motive for such deception on the part of Islamophobes. The manipulated story validates, in one fell swoop, their prejudices against Islam, Muslims and the “Arab Spring,” while at the same time affirming for their audience the narratives of persecution of minorities (specifically Christians), the supposed “unique” violent nature of Islam, and most importantly the idea that changes being brought about by the Arab uprisings will not herald freedom, democracy, dignity, and rights (the slogans of Arab revolutionaries), but “radical Islam” a la the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Conclusion

On its own the video is a potent reminder of violent fundamentalist extremism. The re-packaging and re-titling of the video is not only a detriment to factual news reporting and information gatherers, it is an insult to the memory of the poor Shia’ man who was murdered by these extremists.

The damage from this story has already been done, the looniverse has consumed it, reinforcing their own prejudices. It is hoped this article will go some way in dispelling the false re-packaging and re-titling of the video–and may the unnamed, murdered man rest in peace.