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Conservative Muslims shouted anti-Semitic slogans when Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Gaza government, arrived in Tunisia. The leader of the Tunisian Islamic party chastised them for their discrimination, which had shocked the Jewish community in the area. Tunisia is among the more secular Arab countries, and the remarks made by the group of Muslims distressed and mortified the government.
Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of the Ennahda party which is at the head of the government, said the Jews of Tunisia are “full citizens with equal rights and duties.” He said in a statement, “Ennahda condemns these slogans which do not represent Islam’s spirit or teachings and considers those who raised them as a marginal group.”
Haniyeh was greeted by Salafists chanting, “Kill the Jews!” and “Crush the Jews!” when he arrived at the Tunis Airport, according to online videos of the incident. The Salafists are conservative Muslims who have been very vocal in the country as of late.
Roger Bismuth, the president of Tunisia’s Jewish community stated, “It is worse than bad, it is catastrophic for Tunisia — particularly in regard to the repercussions that these attitudes provoke abroad.” Ghannouchi and Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali met with him on Monday and assured him they would deal with this the state of affairs and might even address the nation about it.
Perez Trabelsi, the head of the Jewish community on Djerba, the island where most of the Jewish community resides, said the chants were “unreasonable” and that the government “could not let it pass.”
After decades of oppression, the elected Ennahda party wants to prove their belief in the universal rights and freedoms of the Tunisian people. They have been embarrassed by the conservative Muslim groups that appeared after President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown last year.
The groups have staged sit-ins over women university students not being allowed to wear face veils to class and have protested over other various moral issues. When the Ennahda party lagged in reproaching them, it received criticism from the already suspicious liberal groups who are unsure of the Islamist party.
“I think if Ennahda doesn’t come up with some way of being unequivocal in its rejection of some of these ideas and tactics, it really does risk damaging its credibility with some of its coalition partners, progressive voters, and international donors,” said Chris Alexander, an expert on Tunisia from North Carolina’s Davidson College. “I think a lot of people will see that hesitancy as a mark of their true intentions.”