By Souad Sbai
Every year there are serious cases of violence against restaurants and cafeterias that serve food and drink during fasting. This last month of fasting it happened again in Tunisia: attacks against waiters and customers who were in a cafeteria. And the response of the authorities? Guilty silence and tolerance towards the intolerant.
A few days ago came the news of the aggression suffered by the owner, the waiters and customers of a cafe located on the outskirts of Tunisia by a group of extremists who tried to burn the place they assaulted.
The aggression has caused a furor in the social networks and in the media of the Arab world. According to the reconstruction made by Sky News Arabia and based on statements made by the Ministry of the Interior, the owner of the cafeteria has refused to describe the incident as a simple “disagreement among the young people of the neighborhood”. While a large number of videos belie the statements of the chief of police, who denied that the people arrested after the incident were extremists. With the usual shout “Allahu Akbar” and chanting the typical “takfiri” slogans reinforced by insults with an ideological-militant background, these “young people of the neighborhood” were armed with knives and threw gasoline in the windows of the cafeteria. One of the waiters, says the owner, was injured and was taken to a hospital in the capital.
In Tunisia, during the Ramadan period, restaurants and cafes traditionally close their doors during the day to reopen them not before the iftar, after sunset. However, there is no law that prohibits the provision of food or beverages. Therefore, the appeal made by the Tunisian League for the defense of human rights to the authorities is more than justified, since they must assume “the responsibility […] of guaranteeing public and individual liberties and their protection”. Celebrating Ramadan and following its precepts must respond to a free election, not to the fear dictated by the forces of extremism, which seek to impose their dictatorship with violence and violating state laws.
Freedom of choice is also a question of security that the institutions must guarantee in a firm way and without trivializing to those who do not intend to celebrate Ramadan or those who intend to live it as they wish. The tolerance towards intolerance shown by the authorities in the case of the Tunisian cafeteria does not help, therefore, to fight against extremism and it is contrary to the efforts made by President Essebsi and the Nidaa Tounes party to counteract the Islamist agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Ennhada Party that receive the support of Emirs Al Thani’s Qatar and Erdogan’s Turkey.
If the authorities fear that displeasing the Muslim Brotherhood could harm stability and public order, it means that they are not totally committed to the fight against extremism. The refusal showed by the owner of the cafeteria and by the Ministry of the Interior to accept the sweetened version – defining it with a euphemism – and the courage to open the doors of his open business despite being aware that there is the possibility of suffering an attack, challenge openly to extremists; a challenge shared by the majority of the Arab world. The indignation widely expressed in social networks and in the media is an indication of the clear will to fight for the definitive affirmation of rights and freedoms and against fundamentalism and obscurantism. Ramadan also has the right to be freed from fear induced by the forces of extremism.
At the same time, there is another factor related to the fear that increasingly characterizes today’s Ramadan celebrations: the hypocrisy or hypocrisy to which all those who eat or drink are subjected, including alcoholic beverages, hidden by fear to be prejudged because they violate not a religious mandate but a social obligation. Especially, alcohol is a very common taboo in the Arab world that must see the light. An article published in the journal Le Journal Hebdomadaire entitled “Moroccans and alcohol” which is an investigation of great hypocrisy “, which goes back a few years but is still very current, clearly describes the behavior and lifestyle of the Most of the population: from the restaurants and cafeterias of the main cities, such as Casablanca, to more discreet places in the rural centers, alcohol is a constant presence also in the Ramadan period, so the Moroccans of all social classes have stocks of wine, beer and liquor bottles, legally and illegally. Le Journal Hebdomadaire underlines the driving role of the alcohol industry in the economy, both in terms of employment and in state coffers, certifying the normal use and sale of alcoholic beverages in Morocco. This normality does not diminish the “Islamicity” of religion or the culture of Moroccan society; On the other hand, the veil of hypocrisy imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood is responsible for the persistence of a contradiction that does not really exist.
Tearing this veil of hypocrisy, which continues to fill with indoctrination and radicalization the existing vacuum in education and integration, which mainly affects young people and women, is the goal to be achieved in the fight against the forces of extremism that harm the Arab and Muslim world even during Ramadan.
La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana