Islamists, Secularists Agree on Hijab

Tunisia's Islamists and secularists have stricken a landmark document outlining women's rights in the secular country, including wearing hijab.

Islamists, Secularists Agree on Hijab

Tunisia's Islamists and secularists have stricken a landmark document outlining women's rights in the secular country, including wearing hijab.

"It is the first time in the Muslim world that secularists and Islamists have reached an agreement on one of the most sticking point; women's rights," Ziad Al-Dawlati, a senior member at the Islamic-oriented Al-Nahda (Renaissance) Movement, told IslamOnline.net Sunday, March 11.

The document was adopted Friday night, March 9, by the Tunisian October 18 Group for rights and Liberties, which comprises Islamists, secularist and communists.

The paper, which coincided wit the Women's Day celebrations, remarkably recognized Tunisian women's inalienable right to wear hijab, which has been a bone of contention between both camps for a long time.

"Hijab is a matter of personal freedom and Tunisian women should not be compelled to take off the headscarf or punished for it," said the document, a copy of which was obtained by IOL.

It called for repealing the "arbitrary" law no. 108 "which oppressed hijab-clad women and stripped them of their rights."

 

In 1981, then Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba (1956-1987) ratified the law at issue, which banned Tunisian women from wearing hijab in state offices.

Worse still, the government issued in the 1980s and 1990s more restrictive enactments.

Hijab, which has been making a comeback among young women and students in the North African country over the past few years, is seen by Islam as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.

 

Tunisia is among a minority of Muslim countries that impose restrictions on hijab.

Turkey's secular state bans women from wearing hair covering at government-run universities. In Europe, France has triggered a controversy in 2004 by adopting a bill banning hijab and religious insignia in state schools.

Milestone

 

Leader of the secular Union for Work and Freedom Party Mustafa Bin Jaafar hailed the document as a "milestone."

"Because it demonstrates that dialogue between Islamists and secularists over controversial issues like women's rights can be fruitful," said Jaafar.

He said the secularist-Islamist consensus thwart what he called state bids over the past 20 years to pit both camps against one another.

Al-Dawlati agreed that the document would help boost secularist-Islamist dialogue in Tunisia.

"This agreement opens the door for the Tunisia elite of all political and cultural hues to tackle other thorny issues such as state and religion, and democracy," he said.

"The agreement also reflects that the parties concerned are ready to make concessions for the welfare of this country."

Ahmed Najeb Al-Shabi, a founder of the October 18 group, said the document is a "stepping stone" for a real democratic society uniting Tunisians from all walks of life.

The document has further endorsed equal job and education opportunities for men and women.

 

"There should be no discrimination at workplace and employees should receive salaries, health care and insurance irrespective of gender," it said.

The document, however, lamented that some laws that empowered women have not yet entered into fruition.

"Full gender equality has not been materialized yet," it said. "Unemployment rates among women are still towering and women employees are paid less than their male peers in the public and private sectors."

I

t further called for a constitutional amendment providing for the equality principle.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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