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Karima Bennoune: Killing the Arab Spring in Its Cradle

Karima Bennoune, a professor of law at the University of California, Davis, is the author of the forthcoming book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories From the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism.”

...Since it attained independence from France in 1956, Tunisia has had some of the region’s most progressive laws relating to women and families. Many fear that Ennahda is trying to undo those laws. Amel Grami, an intellectual historian at Manouba University, whose campus was besieged last year by Salafi activists opposed to women’s equality and secular education, says the Arab Spring has “triggered a male identity crisis” that has magnified the extreme positions taken by Islamist parties.

In Tunisia, she has noted, fundamentalists have called for girls as young as 12 to don the niqab, which covers everything but the eyes. An Ennahda lawmaker has called for “purification of the media and purification of intellectuals,” while female Ennahda deputies have urged segregation of public transportation by gender. Some Salafists have spoken of legalizing female genital mutilation, a practice largely foreign to Tunisia.

Many Tunisians I interviewed in the last month — in the political opposition, in academia, in the women’s movement — told me that they felt threatened. “You are all Mohamed Brahmi,” one mourner chanted on Thursday evening, among those weeping outside the slain activist’s home....

Read entire article at NYT