WASHINGTON — The Tunisian government is taking a harder line toward the hardline and ultraconservative Muslim groups, called Salafis by some. According to the Associated Press, this group of conservative Muslims are threatening to tear apart the country.
Tunisia is struggling to hunt al-Qaeda terrorists along its borders in addition to reining in protests and demonstrations by hardline Salafis. Six Tunisian policemen were injured while pursuing al-Qaeda operatives close to the Algerian border.
The country’s interior minister presented a tougher stance, saying that their gatherings require government permission. It had rarely been enforced in the past, but the government fears these protests will lead to violence.
Ansar al-Sharia’s leader, Seifallah Ben Hassine, said that this government move is a “foolish mistake”. He has also called for the ouster of the current government for their weakness and lack of dedication to the Islamist cause.
The government is headed by the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, which swept into office after the ouster of the previous dictator, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The Ennahda Party has been criticized as being too soft with conservative Muslim groups and movements since Ben Ali’s ouster.
After a prominent opposition lawmaker was assassinated outside his home in the capital city, accusations were levied against the Ennahda Party, which they denied having involvement. But, this has not removed the stigma of the Ennahda politicians being soft on Islamist movements.