Town hall on Tunisian identity 2 years after the revolution

By Greta Ghacibeh, Directrice, Association Tunisie Media

Town hall participants in the rural city of Beja, Tunisia.

America Abroad Media’s Tunisian office — Association Tunisie Media (ATM) — recently partnered with Radio Mosaique FM to host a town hall discussion exploring Tunisian identity in a post-revolution society. The event took place one day after the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted longtime president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The event connected audiences in the coastal city of Bizerte and the rural city of Beja to discuss the possible tension between a modern, secular Tunisian identity and the traditional Arab-Muslim identity that has made a strong resurgence since the revolution. Despite different responses to this question expressed during the town hall, participants and panelists seemed to generally agree that modernity and the Arab-Muslim identity did not conflict with one another. However, people disagreed on what aspects of modernity should be adopted, while still preserving elements of the traditional Tunisian identity.

Town hall participants join the discussion from Bizerte, Tunisia.

Some participants said that a total departure from old traditions is preferable in order for society to advance and catch up with the developed world.

Listen to what participant Hsan El Ghazi, a high school teacher from Beja had to say:

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Participant Farouk – a student from Bizerte – said that while the Muslim world was once a hub for modernization, the mentality within Muslim societies has changed.

 

Listen to his response below:

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More conservative Islamist participants said that modernity should not be adopted in its entirety, but adapted to suit the nature of the local culture.

Listen to what town hall participant, Mohamed El Qaydi, an Ennahda activist, had to say:

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Both panelists explained that modernity and the Arab-Muslim identity are each comprised of many components. The Arab-Muslim identity is only one of many identities in Tunisia, and modernity has many faces.

Amel Qrami, a professor of Islamic studies, pointed out that the “modernization” that Tunisia went through did not create “modernity” in its full sense.

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