Call to lib­er­al­ize Tunisian law protested; Is­raeli Arabs march

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - NATION & WORLD -

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.

OOO

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Is­raeli Arabs held high a Pales­tinian flag Sat­ur­day dur­ing a protest against the Jewish na­tion-state leg­is­la­tion in Tel Aviv, Is­rael.

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