Tunisia's Salafists Come to the Fore

Tunisia's Salafists Come to the Fore

The legalization and participation of Salafist parties in the democratic process is one of the recent trends to emerge from the Arab uprisings. Like Egypt, which legalized three Salafist parties for its elections, and Yemen, which recently legalized its own Salafist party, Tunisia licensed the Tunisian Islamic Reform Front (Hizb Jabhat al-Islah al-Islamiyya al-Tunisiyya; Jabhat al-Islah) on March 29, 2012.Previously, the transitional government led by former Prime Minister Beji Caid al-Sebsi twice rejected Jabhat al-Islah’s demands for official recognition because of national security concerns. In contrast, the current ruling party, Ennahda, supports the legalization of Salafist groups both because of its own history in the opposition and the practical considerations of governing an ideologically polarized country. Ennahda seems to believe that by bringing groups like Jabhat al-Islah into the system it can send a clear signal: if one wants to take part in shaping the future of Tunisia, one must buy into the democratic process.

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