Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tunisia is most secular Arab country

Perhaps the most progressive, at least in education. Will that change with Islamic influence? I hope not.

'For all its restrictions on direct political participation, for decades, Tunisia was the most secular and progressive country the Islamic world has ever known. The regime was the least brutal in the region, its people the wealthiest and best educated.

The poverty level was just 4  per cent when the revolution broke out, which is among the lowest in the world.

Eighty per cent of the population belonged to the middle class. And the education system — allocated more funding than the army — ranked 17th globally in terms of quality. The veil was banned in public institutions, polygamy was outlawed, mosques were shuttered outside prayer times, and men needed permission from the local police to grow a beard.

It was the only Muslim country where abortion was legal, where frank sex education was compulsory in schools, and where children had it drummed into their heads that religion and politics were distinct and separate.

Radical Islamists opposed to this strict secular order were either exiled or imprisoned. Now, however, with the collapse of the old order, the Islamists are starting to come back — with a vengeance.'

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