Interim President Moncef Marzouki summed up the situation in his speech recently before the Constituent Assembly. He rejected attempts to divide the people between good and bad, reformers and corrupters, revolutionaries and reactionaries, Islamists and secularists, modernists and Salafists. He admitted that the objectives of the revolution are yet to be realized. A battle is raging among various political, religious and intellectual forces, in Parliament, within the government and in the streets, sometimes with a violent outcome.
The Constituent Assembly, which is controlled by Islamists from Al Nahda party and the Salafists, has failed to adopt a draft constitution that would overcome the thorny issues of the religious character of the state, public liberties, women rights and human rights, among others. Lawmakers have grappled with such issues raising fears that the Islamists want to do away with the secular gains of the civil state which were achieved over the past few decades.
The Salafists have been accused of pushing to impose Shariah law. The coalition government, controlled by Al Nahda, which won 41 percent of the Constituent Assembly's seats, and formed the government along with two small leftist parties, has failed to stem the growing tide of the Salafists and reassure secular forces in Tunisia. The clash now is between the Popular Association for the Defense of the Revolution, which is a front of Islamist movements supporting Al Nahda, and the Movement for Tunisia; a secular and liberal movement led by Beji Caid Essebsisi, a former prime minister.
But not all Salafists support the Islamist-led government. The head of Ansar Al Sharia, Abu Ayadh, has accused the government of being a puppet of the United States and un-Islamic, vowing that the Movement for Tunisia will never be allowed to rule the country.
But away from the agitated street, the real battle is being waged inside the Constituent Assembly. Secularists fear that Article 17 of the draft constitution which says that international conventions will be respected inasmuch as they are not contradictory to the constitution; would be used to violate human rights and other international pledges. Al Nahda's President Rashed Ghannouchi had pledged recently that his party would not push for the implementation of the Shariah, and would keep the first article of the former constitution as it is. That article states that: "Tunisia is a free, independent and sovereign state, its religion is Islam, its language is Arabic and its type of government is the republic."