06 November 2012 7:36 pm | | 4

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A few hundred Tunisian Salafists gathered peacefully today in front of the Ministry of Justice in Tunis, protesting discrimination against Salafists and demanding the release of suspects arrested in the aftermath of the attack on U.S. embassy in Tunis on September 14.

Salafists have been blamed for violence in the wake of embassy attack,  creating nationwide controversy and further fracturing national politics.

Families and lawyers of the prisoners also attended the demonstration today. They held signs that read “No to exclusion! No to discrimination! No to terrorism,” “Terrorist Act is an American Act,” and “Leave Salafists Alone, Arrest RCD partisans,” referring to members of the former ruling party under the Ben Ali regime.

The protesters accused the media of causing division and the Tunisian government of being a pawn of the U.S. ”I am Muslim, not a terrorist! Media you got it wrong,” they chanted, as well as “Media stop the division,” and “Tunisia is the home of my ancestors and children. I have the right for my country.”

Salafist Imam Cheikh Khmaies Mejri, a speaker at the protests, said that Tunisian Salafists are being punished for having

Salafist Imam Cheikh Khmaies Mejri

different beliefs and not believing in democracy. He claimed that over 900 Salafists are currently incarcerated. Their charges are not based on terrorism but rather their non-participation in Western democracy, he said.

“This discrimination, sometimes becomes persecution. It’s like you either think like them or else you’re considered an outlaw,” he said.

Fawzi Jeballah, an official at the Ministry of Justice, said investigations into recent violence is ongoing.

“Not all suspects are arrested. There are some who are wanted and still out there, others who are closely monitored,” he said.

Jeballah said around 220 suspects in the U.S. embassy riots have been arrested, though he did not confirm the precise figure. He added that charges vary depending on the case and the suspect.

Halima Ben Slimen

During the protest this morning, Halima Ben Slimen held the identification card of her son, Suheil Ben Slimen, who has been held for over a month and a half. Suheil “is not even a Salafist,” his parents said.

His mother said that 26-year-old Suheil was arrested about three kilometers away from the U.S. Embassy in Tunis on September 14.

“Even the investigation judge showed sympathy to his case. He knows Suheil is innocent,” said his father.

The U.S. government was granted access last week to Tunisian-born Ali al-Harzi, who is suspected of participating in the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Arij says:

    There has been a lot of salafi-bashing going on in the media, much of it based on the reality of some salafis not agreeing with or accepting the progression of Tunisia into a democratic state. But a lot of this negativity, especially seen on Tunisian news channel, is just an exaggeration and a way of frightening people away from an islamic or even religious rule of Tunisia. I believe that this scare-mongering has been exploded, greater than necessary, in the media to the extent that the government had to show that something was being done, thus explaining the arrests. However, having said this, the salafis must carry out their duties and responsibilities, if they claim to be devoutly religious muslims etc., they must abide by Islamic teachings themselves and not in fact strive to cause chaos and mischief thus polluting the image of the newly elected moderate Islamic party. Tunisian society has, unfortunately, managed to go from one extreme to the other, and we are just hoping and praying that one day it will follow in the footsteps of our prophet (pbuh) and take the ‘middle path’.

  2. Ardo says:

    Saudi Arabia can stay at home

  3. Ardo says:

    Yes they are lost in time with a compass that only points to the past and doesnt know how or where to go forward into the future without violence. Salafists without violence will never happen. What’s with the sword and club toys they can’t do without? They are only tolerant of those who agree with them! How many have a real job and do something constructive for this great nation?

  4. angela says:

    They have video of the rioters who attacked the embassy and many of them looked like Salifast. So should not be difficult to match those incarcerated to those on the many videos. It seemed clear enough from the chants of the crowd what the majority of the demonstrators beliefs were. It may be ok not to agree with democracy but its not ok to then seek to smash it and bully everyone to see everything the 3rd century way.

    Ben Ali is gone its time to stop looking to the past and act in the present hoping to change for a better future. The Salifast movement are very aggressive and do not seem to want to compromise rather they prefer to whine, shout and stomp then blame everyone else for everything.

    There is a part for the movement to play in the future because it is their country to and inclusion should be the governments intent. However there has to be compromise, which they dont do…….They (Salifast) know who did what, when and where so why are they not working with the police to clear their name and reputation by naming those who did take part which would prevent the innocent being blamed.

    Sadly for them they are not living in the 3rd century there will be no return of a Caliphate, the majority of Tunisians dont seem to want to join their cause so they have to negotiate a niche for themselves to live along side with others without throwing the toys out the box every time they see something that they dont like.

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