‘GOODS’ AND ‘BADS’ OF TUNISIA’S NEW CONSTITUTION
The long-awaited constitution of Tunisia that was passed on Sunday midnight is called ‘progressive’ and cerebral in a condition that the moderate Islamist party holding 40 percent of the assembly seats and premiership (before the recent resignation) had succumbed much to safeguard compromise and plurality in the Muslim majority Arab country.
The separation of powers strengthening the power of the president as against the interim Ennahda government, and guaranteeing secularity instead of religion as the basis of civil rights are the two main characteristics that has allowed for calling the new constitution ‘an achievement’.
The final draft of the constitution was ratified by 200 votes in favor, four against and 12 abstentions in the 217-membered parliament that lacked Mohamed Allouche who died days before the vote.
The constitution also amends previous judicial system, creating the constitutional courts that is perceived as a way to ensure human rights in a more promising way. It also deals with education system and school curricula.
Tunisia’s secular constitution is commended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as a model for other Arab countries who have toppled their dictators in 2011 revolution.
Tunisia was inspiring during the Islamic Awakening wave and with Egypt’s constitution nullified for a second time by the coup against the nation’s only democratically elected president, Muhammad Morsi, Tunisia’s secular constitution is the only option to introduce as the epitome of success and democracy.
The hypocrisy of secularism
The constitution is especially celebrated for the separation of religion from politics and giving the freedom not only of religion, but also of “not to have a religion” as well as Amna Guellali, the Human Rights Watch representative in the country describes.
The description is perfectly true owned to “the freedom of belief and conscience” permits atheism and the practice of non-Abrahamic religions, a peculiar approach in an Arab, Islamic nation.
However, it is not the freedom of belief and religion that stands to the chagrin of Islamist, but the criticism made against the criminalization of the “attack on the sacred” interpreted as a violation of freedom of speech.
The criticism is hypocritical in the face of the acceptance and reverence of the other parts of the article that restricts Islamism, including the banning of ‘takfir’, badging one for apostasy, a libelthat put the person at risk of threats and attacks previously.
"This formulation is vague and gives too much leeway to the legislators to trample other rights such as the right to free expression, artistic creation and academic freedoms," warned Amna Guellali in reference to the article on religion.
Such an approach implies that accusations of apostasy is in violation of human rights but irritating the feelings of Muslims -making up 98 percent of the country’s population- by posting insulting portraits on Prophet Muhammad on Facebook is permissible.
In other words, the constitution is criticized for criminalizing “attacks on the sacred” and endorsed for abandoning ‘takfir’ –an attempt to control such insults, presumably- in a harsh example of duality.
Women’s rights in the new constitution
The ratified constitution is also hilarious due to the guaranty it gives to women’s rights, a major concern that had brought conflicts and debates in the months leading to the ratification.
According to eh article 20 of the constitution that was approved by 159 out of 169 lawmakers on January 6, "All male and female citizens have the same rights and duties. They are equal before the law without discrimination".
Women have always enjoyed privileges in the 11-million Mediterranean Muslim country that were envied in other Arab countries.