“In the birthplace of the Arab Spring, the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been mostly smoother than in neighboring countries, with no power-hungry military or armed militias to stifle the process,” AP reports. “But as a moderate Islamist party rules with the help of secular forces, an unexpected threat has emerged: the increasing boldness of ultraconservative Muslims known loosely as Salafis, who want to turn this North African country of 10 million into a strict Islamic state.”
Tunisia‘s militant Salafis are relatively small in number, but they have “succeeded in mobilizing disaffected and angry youth much more effectively than secular opposition parties.”
Experts warn that an economic downturn could turn these spasms of religious-tinged rage into the new language of the opposition. Tunisia’s economy shrank by 2 percent last year and unemployment stands at 18 percent — even higher among young people….As Salafis thrive in the new atmosphere of freedom of expression, they are aggressively attacking the free expression of those they see as insulting Islam. Their main target: artists who themselves have used democratic upheaval to raise sharp, often provocative, questions about the relationship between religion and society.
“There’s no question that unemployment aggravates the situation,” said William Lawrence, the North Africa representative for the International Crisis Group think tank. “They go to Salafism because they have nowhere better to go socially, politically and spiritually.”
For Tunisian authorities, grappling with the Salafis is made all the harder by the fact that they have not coalesced into an articulate, united movement but are rather comprised of different groups, some which may even be under manipulation of secular remnants of the old regime. That contrasts with Egypt, where Salafis have formed political parties and participate in politics…..Under Ben Ali, imams were appointed by the state and religious schools closed. Many of those alienated by the official secular culture of the French-speaking elite turned to the strict Salafi Islam of the Arabian peninsula.
“They were influenced by the Salafi discourse coming out of the Gulf countries and diffused by the Salafi satellite channels all through the 1990s,” explained Slaheddine Jourchi (above), a veteran pro-democracy activist. “They saw the Salafi discourse as the most pure in Islam.”
Sami Brahim, an expert on Islamist movements in Tunisia who runs a cultural center right near the art gallery in La Marsa, expects the whole Salafi movement to subside with time because it is a cultural import funded by the Gulf states. Since the movement was nurtured under the oppression of Ben Ali, he said, it should eventually wither in the face of greater freedom of expression and debate.
“Salafism doesn’t yet have the courage to take part in politics since from the beginning it hasn’t been an organized movement and it doesn’t have a very well elaborated discourse,” said Brahim. “It would just need a healthy atmosphere, real freedoms and a relatively successful economy for the Tunisian Salafi movement to be marginalized.”
Executive Director for CSID-Tunis
The Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID-Tunis), an independent, non-profit, and non-governmental organization based in Tunisia that works to support and consolidate democracy around the world, seeks an Executive Director. This position is based in Tunis, Tunisia.
Position Summary: The Executive Director will work with CSID-Tunis staff and volunteers to provide programmatic support to CSID-Tunis programs in Tunisia and North Africa, develop the CSID-Tunis strategy for the region, set programmatic priorities, monitor, implement, and evaluate projects, and track program budgets.
Writing and Submitting grant proposals and progress reports in specific countries;
Working with the CSID-Tunis board of directors to develop and implement policies and strategies for the organization;
Maintaining regular communications with potential and existing local and international organizations and donors;
Represent the organization at local, regional, and international meetings and conferences.
Building and maintaining relationships with like-minded organizations, including donors, partners and regional organizations.
Organizing and participating in events to highlight specific democracy-related issues, and facilitating transitions to democracy in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt.
Also responsible for all aspects of program administration including application review, coordination with program host sites and facilitators, program evaluation and reporting.
Provides support for CSID-Tunis communication and fundraising efforts.
Manages and directs a local staff of between 4 and 6 full-time and part-time employees, interns, and volunteers.
Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in International Affairs, Political Science, International Development or related discipline;
At least 5-10 years of extensive experience in democracy, human rights, and NGO related work;
In-depth understanding of political issues and trends in Tunisia and the North Africa region;
Must have excellent written and oral communication skills in Arabic, English, and French;
MS Office skills; Generally excellent computer skills;
High degree of organization and initiative;
Experience developing and facilitating civic engagement and discussion-based public programming.
Experience supporting communication and fundraising efforts for public programs.
Excellent leadership, organizational, planning, and communication skills.
Ability to multi-task and work independently.
This position is available on Oct. 1, 2012.
Starting Salary: 2,200 Tunisian Dinars, plus benefits.
To Apply: Applications must include a cover letter, resume, salary history and requirements, and contact information for three references. Please send to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and “Executive Director, Tunisia & North Africa” in the subject line, as we have multiple positions open). Deadline for submitting applications is August 15, 2012.
Only those offered interviews will be contacted. No phone calls, please.
CSID is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.