Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

This is the second and final film which I produced in Tunisia this (Northern) Spring. It took a while to cut the first of two films, then to cut and promote this one. Journeyman Pictures took it a month or two ago with some success in Scandinavia (thank you, public broadcasting), and I was holding off on promoting it myself until Media set up the pay per click streaming of it. They appear to be having some issues over at Fairfax so I’m posting it myself now. Please enjoy, and share.

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Religious minorities are concerned at the rise of puritanical Islamic groups in post-revolution Tunisia – I’ve cut this package and it’s available for sale. Please leave a comment or contact @billcode on Twitter if you’re interested in screening it.


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Here’s a recent blog post for SBS News on Tunisia’s Jewish community and the Ghriba festival of Djerba.

‘My son moved away to France, all of the young people did’, the lady showing me around Tunis’s huge Synagogue tells me.

‘How would they find someone to marry here?’

Amid the enormous art deco building heavily guarded day and night, it was a reminder of how the Jewish population of Tunisia has seen its population shrink in the twentieth century.

We sat in a small antechamber where today’s ceremonies are held; there are only a few hundred Jews left in Tunis; down from a national population of perhaps a hundred thousand at the time of the creation of Israel. Many have headed there, and to France.

I visit the Synagogue in the morning before heading down to the island of Djerba for the famed Jewish Ghriba pilgrimage.

Read this post at SBS News.

After seven weeks of trying, I finally interviewed Ennahda leader Rashid Ghannouchi, who will feature in one or two of the current affairs films I am producing on life in post-revolution Tunisia.

It was quite a privilege – he’s clearly one of the most important Islamists in the world, and perhaps the most important person in Tunisia right now. If it’s policy, he’s had a big say.

Here’s the section where I field a few questions on Ennahda’s stance on press freedom in Tunisia.
Some of these thoughts feature in a piece I wrote on press freedom which appeared in New Matilda.
If you’d like to know more about the films I am making on life for religious minorities in the wake of the revolution, as well as the huge economic and political challenges facing the new government, leave a comment or fire a tweet @billcode

UNESCO focused its 3 May World Press Freedom Day events in Tunis, a symbolic move celebrating the hard-won privileges of a year of Arab uprisings. From the plush presidential palace he now calls home, former human rights activist Moncef Marzouki indulged in a Google Plus hangout to extol the virtues of the coalition government in which his leftist party is a junior partner with the Islamists of Ennahda.

But most journalists were crowded around the front of a colonial era courthouse on the other side of town, waiting for the result of the “Persepolis affair”. The case was brought against Nessma TV for airing the animated French-Iranian film, due to the depiction of God in one short scene. The provocative broadcast had sparked violence from offended Salafists at the station’sHQ and the home of its owner.

Suddenly, there was a buzz of activity when news went around the sunny courtyard that the owner was to be fined 2400 Dinar (around AUD$1500) for showing the film, while a smaller fine went to those who dubbed it into Tunisian Arabic.

The ruling and subsequent message was clear. “Disturbing public order and threatening proper morals” — by offending Islam — was not going to be tolerated in post-revolution Tunisia. Prosecuting lawyers said they’d appeal the “lenient” sentence.

In this piece for New Matilda, I speak to renowned Tunisian journalist Fahem Boukadous, Reporters Sans Frontiere’s Olivia Gré, and Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi. Continue reading.


Here’s an article I wrote for SBS News on the contentious issue of the niqab in Tunisian education. It seems to me, as an outsider, that universities should be places where people can where what they want, within reason. The powers that be at Manouba University don’t agree, however, and are keeping the niqab from class. It’s received plenty of media attention, so I headed out there to see for myself.

‘They said we could have a prayer room if we dropped our demand to let niqabs in the classroom’ Mohammed told me through an interpreter, stroking his long, patchy beard. ‘So we said no.’

Tunis’s Manouba University has, if the newspapers are to be believed, become the front line in a new national debate over the place of religion – and religious attire – in post-revolution Tunisia.

Mohammed, a young man with a friendly-enough demeanour and tinted glasses hiding an eye twitch, is the lead Salafist on campus.

At least that’s what I’m told – as tends to happen in Tunisia, where Tunisians themselves are still learning, he says he’s not a Salafist.

It certainly is something of a bogey word amongst the secular elite and sections of the media here and overseas, and it’s used to attack people like him, he says.

He has two main goals he is keen to push: a prayer room on campus, and giving girls the right to wear the niqab into class.


On the day I visit, the Tunisian flag is flying high above the entrance to the university. Last year, the university gained notoriety when ‘Salafists’ took the flag down and replaced it with their black-flag of choice, following the denial of entry to a female student in Niqab, and the tremendous he-said she-said which ensued.

The issue scandalised the Tunisian media and made world headlines. In a country which was still debating the role of Sharia in the constitution, the position of minorities in the country, and what it means to be a Tunisian, it has rallied supporters of different causes.

But while plenty of secular Tunisians spit venom when talking about growing hordes of ‘barbarians’ with the beards and niqabs, many students on campus think the university mishandled the matter.

Habib Karzdaghli, dean of the Arts and Humanities department, is keen on defending his handling of the ensuing hunger strike and the ongoing ban on the niqab in class. 

Read the rest of this article here.