Tunisia’s new Constitution to ‘remove reference to Islam’

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The legal expert tasked with rewriting Tunisia’s Constitution said yesterday that he will present a draft version, removing any reference to Islam in order to counter “extremism”.

The first article of the North African country’s Constitution, which was adopted three years after the 2011 revolution currently says it is “a free, independent and sovereign state” and that “Islam is its religion and Arabic is its language”.

Sadeq Belaid, who once taught President Kais Saied, was appointed last month to head the President’s National Consultative Commission for a New Republic said he will present the new draft by 15 June, ahead of a planned 25 July referendum.

Belaid, 83, told AFP  “80 per cent of Tunisians are against extremism and against the use of religion for political ends”.

“That’s exactly what we want to do, simply by erasing Article 1 in its current form,” he said in an interview.

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Asked whether there would be any reference to Islam in the new Constitution, Belaid said “there won’t be”.

Belaid also said he wanted to confront Tunisia’s influential Islamist parties, including leading oppositionists, the Ennahda Party.

“If you use religion to engage in political extremism, we will not allow that,” he said.

“We have political parties with dirty hands. Whether you like it or not, French or European democrats, we won’t accept these dirty people in our democracy.”

He accused Ennahda and others of being “backed by foreign powers, states or mini-states with lots of money to spend, and who use it to interfere in this country’s business. That’s treason.”

The move by Saied is part of his efforts in reforming Tunisia’s political system, following his decision to dissolve parliament in March, eight months after suspending it in what has been described by critics as a “power grab”.

The President of Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, told Middle East Monitor (MEMO) in an interview, describing the political situation as a “coup” amid the “worst period in the history of post-independence Tunisia” with the country threatened with an economic crisis and famine.

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