Tunisia is taking drastic action by forcibly closing roughly 80 mosques in the wake of an Islamist terror attack on one of the nation’s beaches that killed 39 people, wounded another 36, and rocked the country on Friday.
“There are about 80 mosques that we are going to close down through legal means within one week,” Prime Minister Habib Essid announced after the attacks. “This is a decision the government has taken, and we have assigned the minister of interior and all authorities involved to carry this out within the coming week. It is not acceptable to have in Tunisia any mosques operating outside the rule of law.”
The decision may not resonate well with his citizens, as 95 percent of Tunisians identify as Muslims.
The nation does have freedom of religion, but with some restrictions that favor Islam, so it is unclear what the prime means and whether he or anyone else has the power to close mosques “through legal means.”
The Constitution of Tunisia provides for freedom of religion and the freedom to practice the rites of one’s religion unless they disturb the public order; however, the government imposes some restrictions on this right. The Constitution declares the country’s determination to adhere to the teachings of Islam and stipulates that Islam is the official state religion and that the president must be Muslim. The government does not permit the establishment of political parties on the basis of religion and prohibits efforts to proselytize Muslims. It restricts the wearing of Islamic headscarves (hijab) in government offices, and discourages women from wearing the hijab on public streets and at certain public gatherings. Although changing religions is legal, there is great societal pressure against conversion of Muslims to other religions.
The terrorist in Friday’s attacks disguised himself as a tourist before gunning down British, German and Belgian tourists, among others, during his bloody assault.
The Islamist terror group Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has claimed responsibility for the bloodbath.
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