Tunisian Exceptionalism

A few days ago I took a trip south to the small poor Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid where the revolution against Ben Ali began. While I was out, thousands of Salafists descended on Tunis, waved their black flag, demanded an Islamic state, and incited “war” against “the Jews.” Roughly 1,500 Jews live in Tunisia. Most are in the capital and on the island of Djerba.

A Tunisian journalist I've been working with was appalled by these people. That doesn't surprise me. He's an educated liberal-minded cosmopolitan person and most Tunisian journalists are against the Islamists. Slightly more surprising is the fact that the leftist, liberal, and Islamists parties in the government have condemned the Salafists for their incitement. Even Ennahda, Tunisia's version of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the Salafists. The Ministry of Religious Affairs, which is controlled by Ennahda, piled on.

That wouldn't have happened in Egypt.

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