Monday, November 12, 2007

Hijab in Tunisia

I hadn't heard about this story until now, but Nasima Alli tells us why a Tunisian court ruling against a hijab ban might be interesting:
"In 1981, then Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba (1956-1987) ratified law number 108 banning Tunisian women from wearing the hijab in state offices. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Tunisian government issued more restrictive enactments including the infamous 102 law which considers hijab a sign of 'extremism' and as a result banned it. Unofficially, Tunisian women have been encouraged to put aside the hijab and veil in public streets and social gatherings and have at times been the victims of harassment for being disobedient...

"Meanwhile, and despite a crackdown on Islamists in Tunisia, some women militants have decided to wear the hijab despite the ban. That includes the famous lawyer Saida Al-Akrami, which characterized the ban as unconstitutional.

"For now, the Tunisian courts seem to have sided with Ms. Al-Akrami and those that are on her side of the debate. On October 11, 2007, the law was rescinded after being deemed unconstitutional by the Administrative Court of Tunis. This ruling came from a lawsuit which was filed by schoolteacher Saeeda Adbalah who was suspended from work after she refused to take off her veil. The lawsuit was filed against the Education Ministry and needless to say that she won...

"The most important one relates to the ruling act itself suggesting that either the government allowed it or the courts have taken a contrarian position with the risk of upsetting the government...In the final analysis, it is likely that the courts agreed with the arguments put forward by the opponents of the ban, showing perhaps that the justice system in Tunisia is itself looking for some autonomy and seeking to distance itself from the government. The outcome ultimately will depend on the response of the latter, which is not likely to endorse a ban reversal."

The whole post is worth reading. (Hat tip: Arabist)



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