Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Ennahda party will not go along with calls to include sharia in Tunisia's constitution
Some 10,000 Salafis took to the streets of the capital, Tunis, on Sunday to express their support for the proposal that the country's legislation should be based on Islamic law. (Reuters)
The moderate Islamist Ennahda party, which leads Tunisia's government, will not back calls by conservatives to make Islamic law, or sharia, the main source of legislation in a new constitution, a senior party official said on Monday.
"Ennahda has decided to retain the first clause of the previous constitution without change," Ameur Larayed told Radio Mosaique. "We want the unity of our people and we do not want divisions."
The party has not formally announced its final position.
A constituent assembly, elected in October, is hashing out a new constitution as part of Tunisia's transition. Religious conservatives, including the third largest party in the constituent assembly, have called in recent weeks for the constitution to include sharia as the key source of legislation. Secularists oppose the move. Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda, which occupies over 40 percent of seats in the assembly, promised before the election that his party would be satisfied with the existing first clause of the constitution, which identifies Islam as the religion of state but does not specifically refer to sharia. However, he said a month ago that Ennahda was debating the idea of including sharia and had yet to reach a conclusion.
The article from the 1959 constitution states: "Tunisia is a free, sovereign and independent state, whose religion is Islam, language is Arabic and has a republican regime."
In recent weeks opposition parties have exerted considerable pressure on Ennahda to clarify its position on the issue.