The American Interest

Arabian Fall

In the U.S. mainstream media, the developments that have followed the misnamed “Arab Spring” have been curiously underreported.  The reason seems clear: In recent weeks those developments have taken a clear turn away from Western-style democracy, pluralism, tolerance, respect for human rights, etc.  It now seems obvious that the turmoil has undermined the region’s authoritarian secularists to the benefit of far more authoritarian Islamists.

In Tunisia, the first domino to fall last January, religious tension is rising as Islamists challenge the dominance of liberals.  In the first week of July a mob chanting “Allahu akbar” attacked a cinema in Tunis that had shown Neither Allah Nor Master, a documentary by Tunisian-French director Nadia El Fani, an outspoken secularist.  Police were slow to respond to the calls for help from the cinema, having previously advised that the screening be canceled.  They later arrested 26 men, but Salafists soon gathered outside the justice ministry to demand their release, leading to scuffles.  According to Reuters,

secular media and intellectuals have reacted with alarm, warning that freedoms in Tunisia—a bastion of secularism under 23 years of tough police rule by Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali—are in danger of being lost if Islamists . . . are not stopped.

Taieb Zahar, editor of Réalités,...

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