Tunisia vows to deal with mosque takeovers
Tunisia's religious affairs minister, Nourredine al-Khademi, said Saturday the country will take stock of the hundreds of mosques now in the hands of Salafist extremists.
"This is a priority
area for my administration," said the minister, who estimated that about 400 of Tunisia's more than 5,000 mosques had fallen under the sway of ultraconservative Salafists.
"Serious problems concern about 50 mosques, no more," he said, referring to cases where the original imams and worshippers had been forced out.
In the central city of Sidi Bouzid, for example, a major mosque was taken over by Salafists more than a year ago and is now known by locals as the "Kandahar mosque," after Afghanistan's Taliban stronghold, said Khademi, himself an imam at the El Fateh mosque in Tunis, site of frequent Salafist protests.
A popular uprising in Tunisia early last year ousted long-standing dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's regime and set off the Arab Spring.
The moderate Islamist Ennahda party won October 2011 elections. However, Salafists, formerly banned, are demanding that sharia or Islamic law form the basis of a new constitution.