Tunisia’s president plans to omit ‘Islam’ from new constitution

Kais Saied. Editorial credit: Hussein Eddeb

Tunisia’s president is planning to drop any reference to “Islam” in the country’s new constitution.

The secularist Kais Saied is putting the constitution to a referendum on July 25 in the hope of overhauling the country’s legal, political and economic structures and granting himself more powers.

“The next constitution of Tunisia won’t mention a state with Islam as its religion, but of belonging to an Ummah which has Islam as its religion,” Saied told journalists on Tuesday. “The Ummah and the state are two different things,” he added.

Earlier in June, the head of the drafting committee said that the new constitution would not mention Islam as the religion of the state to “prevent deploying religion for political extremism.”

The Islamic-orientated Ennahda opposition party said Saied is staging a coup on the democratic values of the 2010 revolution, and is assaulting the mixed-party parliamentary system.

It also warned of amending or omitting the constitution’s first article, which states that: “Tunisia is a free, independent, sovereign state; its religion is Islam, its language Arabic.”

The constitution passed in 2014 was a political compromise between secular parties and Ennahda.

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Opposition parties said they would boycott the referendum as thousands of Tunisians took to the street over the weekend, protesting Saied’s move.

Judges have extended their national strike for a third week in protest at Saied’s dismissal of 57 judges, accusing them of corruption and “protecting terrorists.”

Last week, a 24-hour strike, organised by the powerful Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), which demanded wage rises for its workers, brought the country’s international and domestic flights to a standstill, and disrupted land and sea transportation.

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