Dalila Ben Mbarek, lawyer and member of the “Dostourna” network (Arabic word for “our constitution”), has denounced the demands made by Islamist MPs who took an antagonistic stand against Article 6 of the Tunisian Constitution.
Article 6 guarantees freedom of belief and conscience and the free exercise of religion and bans apostasy.
After it has already been approved by the majority of MPs and passed by the parliament, the Higher Islamic Council, the committee that organized the pro-‘legitimacy’ sit-in in Bardo and a number of Islamic associations led a protest in front of the headquarters of the National Constituency Assembly (NCA) in January 14, 2014. A few days later, they met with interim president Moncef Marzouki and asked him to revise Article 6 of the constitution. They demanded to delete the notions of “freedom of conscience” and “prohibition of apostasy” and replace them with a notion that bans insulting religion.
The proposed notion reminds us of the case of Jabeur Mejri who posted nude caricatures of prophet Mohamed (PBUH) on the social network of Facebook. He was charged with “defamation and disturbance of public order”. The International Federation for Human Rights (IDHR) has recently declared that Jabeur Mejri will soon be released in exchange of asylum in Sweden.
In light of the upheaval over Article 6, Dalila Ben Mbarek said on her radio show “Edito l’Express” broadcast on Express FM, that the pro-Islamic opponents of Article 6 wrote a Fatwa accusing those who endorsed Article 6 of blasphemy. She stated that these opponents are not worried about the Tunisian religious heritage, which is Islam. They are rather concerned about losing their most efficient strategy against government opponents, which is accusing them of blasphemy.
Ms. Ben Mbarek mentioned former incidents when Imams used to accuse opposing political figures of blasphemy in their mosques. She implied that it is due to these Imams’ apostasy exercised against anti-government politicians that Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi were assassinated at the first place. She added that now it is these Imams who are demanding to bring to a halt the law that bans apostasy.