DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda’s leader called on Tunisians on Sunday to defend Islamic law from an Islamist party that won elections in the North African country and promised not to impose sharia.
In an audio recording attributed to Ayman al-Zawahri and released on Islamist websites, the Qaeda leader said Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahda party, which rules with secular parties, had betrayed itself and the religion.
“Have you ever seen a hospital that says it’s not in the business of treating the sick, or a pharmacy that says it’s got nothing to do with selling medicine, or an army that says it’s got no business fighting?” he asked.
“They are inventing an Islam acceptable to the U.S. State Department, the European Union and the ... Gulf,” he said. “An Islam ... that permits gambling parlours, nude beaches and usurious banks, secular laws and submission to international law.”
“Come to the aid of your prophet’s customs, and accept no substitute for sharia.”
While Islamists did not play a major role in the revolution that brought down Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the struggle over the role of religion in government and society has since emerged as the most divisive issue in Tunisian politics.
Puritanical Salafi Islamists want a broader role for sharia in the new Tunisia, alarming secular elites who fear they will seek to impose their views and ultimately undermine Tunisia’s nascent democracy.
Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo