Call to liberalize Tunisian law protested; Israeli Arabs march
BARDO, Tunisia — Thousands of Muslim fundamentalists protested Saturday in front of the nation’s parliament to decry proposals in a government report on gender equality that they claim are contrary to Islam.
Men and veiled women marched under a blazing sun from Tunis to Bardo, outside the capital, where the parliament is located, to protest the report by the Commission of Individual Liberties and Equality. The report, among other things, calls for legalizing homosexuality and giving the sexes equal inheritance rights.
Security was heavy during the protest, which remained calm despite the anger the report has triggered. The protest was organized by the National Coordination for the Defense of the Quran, the Constitution and Equitable Development.
The commission was put in place a year ago by President Beji Caid Essebsi, who is expected to speak about it on Monday, Women’s Day in Tunisia. It was not immediately clear whether the proposals would eventually be put before parliament.
The North African nation has, since its independence from France in 1956, been a standardbearer in the Muslim world for women’s rights. But the proposals in the 300-page document, known as the Colibe report, would take human rights, including women’s rights, to another level.
It proposes to end the death penalty and legalize homosexuality, which the current penal code outlaws and punishes with three years in prison. An equal inheritance proposal is an abrupt change from current practices, which see males in a family receiving double the inheritance of females.
The topics touching on sensitive areas have riled Muslims who embrace a literal reading of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
“I’m here to defend the word of God and oppose any projects that harm the Islamic identity of our people,” said Kamel Raissi, a 65-year-old retiree.
The authors of the report say the proposals conform with the nation’s 2014 constitution and international human rights obligations.
Members of Israel’s Arab minority led a mass protest in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night against a contentious new law that critics say marginalizes the state’s non-Jewish citizens.
The rally marked further fallout from the explosive nationstate law and came a week after thousands of Druze, also members of the Arab minority, packed the same city square last week.
Israel’s 1948 declaration of independence defined the country as a Jewish and democratic state and the government says the recently passed bill merely enshrines the country’s existing character. But critics say it undercuts Israel’s democratic values and sidelines the country’s nonJewish population, namely the Arab community that makes up 20 percent of the country.
One clause downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing.
Israeli media reported tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs attended the protest. Some Arab protesters waved Palestinian flags and others held signs reading “equality.” Some knelt and said Muslim prayers.
A man shouted during a demonstration near Tunis, Tunisia, on Saturday. Thousands of Muslim fundamentalists protested for hours in front of parliament to decry proposals in a government report on gender equality.
Israeli Arabs held high a Palestinian flag Saturday during a protest against the Jewish nation-state legislation in Tel Aviv, Israel.