JNN 26 July 2013 Tunis : The statements of Salafi cleric Khamis Mejri have angered Tunisians and prompted activists to launch a fierce Facebook campaign against him after he compared the Tunisian women to “a cheap product, whose honor can be purchased for the price of a sandwich.”
Dozens of Tunisians decided to file a case against the Salafi preacher, accusing him of insulting the Tunisian women on the background of statements he made during a Friday sermon “you can take – have sexual intercourse with – Tunisian women in exchange for just a sandwich.”
According to Middle East Online website, Fadhel Ashour, the General Secretary of the Union of Religious Leaders, said that Majeri must be sacked as an Imam because “he transgressed all the ethics of religious discourse.”
Ashour also called on the Ministry of Religious Affairs “to stop the escalating incitement against Tunisians and the violation of their dignity, regardless of their different affiliations.”
Ashour noted that Majeri’s statements “amount to a defamation of the Tunisian honorable women,” noting that the sweeping comments of the Salafi cleric “put him in a legal limbo.”
He said the Union will sue Majeri “to make of him an example to others,” expressing his astonishment at “the opening of the doors of mosques in front of the likes of Mejri,” especially that the Salafi cleric was “accused of terrorism while he was living in France.”
He added sarcastically, “A simple worker at a meat factory, Majeri entered politics and became one of the staunchest champions of the ruling party.”
Since independence from France in 1956, Tunisia has boasted some of the most advanced women’s rights in the Arab world.
First post-independence leader Habib Bourguiba gave Tunisian women the right to vote, abolished polygamy, forbade marriage under the age of 17 and allowed woman equal rights to divorce.
Women represent around quarter of Tunisia’s working population and just over half of higher education students, according to Tunisia’s national institute of statistics.
When the Tunisian revolution began in late 2010, triggering the Arab Spring and making Tunisia the first country to overthrow its dictator, women stood alongside men at the protests.
However since the Ennahda party came to power in the elections of October 2011, and with the rise of radical groups in the country such as the Salafists, many women are concerned about the growing radicalization of the country.
As a result of these fears women activists have been closely monitoring the drafting of the new Tunisian constitution.
In August 2012, they fiercely opposed one draft which suggested that women were ‘complementary’ to men. The wording was later changed to ‘equal’.
The future for women in Tunisia remains uncertain as the population waits for the Constitution to be finalized and for national elections which are due to take place at the end of the year or the start of 2014.
What remains clear is that whatever their political or religious views, Tunisian women have a strong voice, and are willing to fight for their rights.