Tunisia: President Condemns Muslim Headscarf
Tunisia officially banned the Muslim headscarf or hijab from public offices and from schools in 1981.
The Muslim headscarf was condemned last year by Aboubaker Akhzouri, Tunisia's religious affairs minister. He said that wearing the hijab does not have any relevance to Tunisia's North African history and culture. Akhzouri also said that his government rejected the growing of long beards, which was equated with fundamentalism, and the Muslim tunics as worn in states in the Persian Gulf.
Akhzouri said then that wearing of hijabs in Tunisia was "in decline... progressively fading away." It appears now that hijabs appear to be worn more frequently in Tunisia, and the president is not too happy about this.
AKI reports that, following a meeting with the religious affairs minister, president Zayn el-Abidin Ben Ali today said that there was a necessity to differentiate "between religious attire introduced from abroad and traditional Tunisian clothing which is part of the national identity."
Ben Ali continued: "Tunisia is solidly anchored to the teachings of Islam, the religion of openness, just means, tolerance and dialogue." He said the country "highly values decency and the virtue of modesty."
The Tunisian president's comments come after a statement which was made at a recent conference by al-Hadi Mihani, who is secretary feneral of the ruling party, the Democratic Constitutional Assembly. Mihani condemned the increased use of the hijab in Tunisia.
At a conference entitled "Safeguarding the originality of national identity", Mihani spoke of those "who are attempting to mask political issues with the face of religion."
He had said: "There is a need to mobilise against such phenomena, to defend the Islamic faith, the rights of present and future generations, and the country's identity. If we accept the headscarf today, tomorrow we will accept that women lose their right to hold jobs and to vote, that they be prohibited from studying and that they become solely a means of reproduction and domestic labour."
The original decision to ban the hijab and other forms of "religious attire", was made by former president Habib Bourguiba in 1981. The ban on such items is defended by the authorities as not being against religion, but against "extremist religious ways of dressing."