Wajdi Ghoneim, the fiery Egyptian cleric notorious for his controversial stances on a number of social and political issues, issued a challenge “ via Facebook “ against his secular and liberal Tunisian critics, calling upon them to face him in a live, televised debate.
Ghoneim's contentious visit to Tunisia “ organized by Dar el-Hadith Academy, al-Forqan Association for Teaching the Qur’an, and the Basha’ir el-Kheir Organization – has been met with a wave of uproar, characterized both by dissent and support, from representatives of nearly all demographics of Tunisian society.
Bochra Bel Haj Hamida, a lawyer and human rights activist, and a team of other lawyers, have announced that they are building a case against Ghoneim, on charges of inciting hatred as well as the unauthorized use of public spaces for the purpose of worship. Hamida stated during an interview on Mosaique FM that this visit could have divisive ramifications and serves only to interfere in Tunisian socio-political matters.
Abdelfattah Mourou, a lawyer who was formerly a prominent member of the Islamist party Ennahda, criticized Ghoneim along with other religious figures who have recently visited the country. In an interview on Tunisia's national television station last Monday, Mourou criticized the visiting figures for presenting their religious interpretations in a narrow, dogmatic context that fails to take into account, or be sensitive of, religious thought based on Tunisia's rich cultural heritage.
Ghoneim did not wait long to respond to the mounting wave of criticism in the form of an online video.
I’m telling all the secular and liberal Tunisians, who did not welcome me, I am not visiting you. I am visiting my brothers in God. I would never come here to visit you, Ghoneim riposted in his rebuttal video.
Since his arrival Ghoneim has made several stops on a country-wide tour. His lectures have packed stadiums with thousands of cheering spectators, eager to attend his fiery sermons.
Ghoneim has garnered notoriety for his contentious perspectives regarding religion, the West, and a number of social practices. However, he has become particularly recognized for his misogynistic perceptions regarding the role of women and his support of the practice of female genital mutilation (also known as FGM or female circumcision). The practice has a number of forms, but most commonly involves the full or partial removal of the clitoris and the inner and outer labia.
Ghoneim recently issued a statement clarifying that although FGM is not mandatory, that it is an option supported by Islamic science, and it should be considered as a form of cosmetic surgery.
Tunisia’s Ministry of Health issued a statement earlier today, in light of Ghoneim’s recent comments, warning against the practice and urging doctors to refuse to administer the treatment if requested.
Ghoneim stated in his response his readiness to meet his challengers head on.
I challenge you all, and I’m saying this out loud, all of you secularists and liberals, choose your smartest, strongest person, and I will debate with them on the air. Not a recorded show, because I don’t trust you – you keep twisting my words – but live on the air. Me verses you, said Ghoneim.
Radio Zitouna has announced that Ghoneim's trip has been extended to a future date that has yet to be defined.