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      Tunisia's Islamist Party Promises to Welcome All Faiths

      The leader of Tunisia’s newly-elected Islamist party: We'll keep the moderation and not exclude anyone.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 11/11/2011, 8:46 AM

      Tunisia unrest in the capital (January 2011 archive)
      Tunisia unrest in the capital (January 2011 archive)
      courtesy VOA Photo/L. Brya

      The leader of Tunisia’s newly-elected Islamist party promised on Thursday that the new Tunisia will welcome people of all faiths and carry on the tradition of moderation for which it has always been known.

      The Associated Press reported that the Ennahda party’s Secretary-General, Hammadi Jebali, made the pledge at a tourism industry meeting. The promise was aimed at countering concerns voiced both in Tunisia and abroad that the party might put the country on a path of extremism.

      According to the report, the message was also meant for the ears of travelers who have been hesitant to return to post-revolution Tunisia. Tourist revenue has fallen more than 30 percent since former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in January. His ouster set off the Arab Spring revolutions which have swept across most of the Arab world.

      Ennahada, considered a moderate Islamist party, claimed victory in the democratic election that took place in October – the first one in Tunisia’s history.

      The party, which is tasked with forming a new constitution, has already announced it is prepared to form an alliance with two secularist parties, a move likely meant to quell fears of a resurgence of Islamists as a threat to modern, liberal values.

      While Ennahdha has said it wants Islamic law to be the source of the country’s legislation, it has vowed to protect personal freedoms and tolerance.

      “Tunisia is a society of moderation, it’s the Tunisian nature,” Jebali was quoted as having said. “There will be no marginalization nor exclusion of Muslims, of Jews, of Christians or of atheists.”

      Despite Jebali’s assurances, however, AP reported that not everyone is convinced. Hundreds of women have demonstrated recently in the wake of an attack on female teachers at a university by students who belong to the Salafist movement, an extremist movement which seeks to pressure greater religious observance in society.