Barnabas Fund, 23 June 2022 (excerpts)
A new draft of Tunisia’s constitution does not name Islam as the North African country’s state religion.
In May 2022 Sadaq Belaid, a legal expert appointed to oversee the drafting process by Kais Saied, President of Tunisia since 2019, said that the aim of the change was to combat Islamist extremism.
The new draft, submitted to President Saied on 20 June, will be voted on in a referendum on 25 July.
“80% of Tunisians are against extremism and the use of religion for political ends,” said Belaid earlier this month.
“If you use religion to engage in political extremism, we will not allow that,” he added.
President Saied confirmed after receiving the draft, “The next constitution of Tunisia won’t mention a state with Islam as its religion, but of belonging to an umma which has Islam as its religion.”
“The umma and the state are two different things,” the president explained. Umma is the global Muslim community or international Islamic world.
The population of Tunisia is 98% Muslim but the country has since 2014 had a guarantee of freedom of religion.
The Christian community includes some Tunisian converts from Islam and their children.
Local Tunisian churches are not prevented from functioning but have no legal status so cannot own property. Converts from Islam are stigmatised by the majority Muslim community and may be rejected by Muslim relatives.