TUNIS – While calling for lifting decades-long ban on hijab, Tunisia's newly legalized Islamic movement reiterated support for an official ban on polygamy in the north African country.
"Ennahda (Awakening) is attached to the gains of the modern state and the rules established by the (code)," Ennahda political bureau senior official Noureddine Bhiri told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The movement was legalized this month for the first time in the 30 years of its existence after the interim government that replaced the toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime introduced unprecedented reforms.
The group supported the Code of Personal Status introduced in 1956 that abolished polygamy and repudiation instead of formal divorce.
The movement stood with women "to protect their rights completely and without exception," Bhiri said.
Women's rights in Tunisia are among the most advanced in the Arab world, with personal status law establishing equality for men and women in many areas.
The law introduced in 1956, the same year Tunisia gained official independence from France, made Tunisia the first Arab state to formally abolish polygamy.
Ben Ali fled Tunisia to Saudi Arabia on January 14 after weeks of deadly street protests over poverty and unemployment.
Under his 23-year rule, several political and Islamic groups were banned, including Ennahddha movement of exiled leader Rached Ghannouchi.
Following his ouster, the caretaker government agreed to legalize all banned political groups.
Observers believe that Ben Ali’s ouster will usher in a new era of Islamic revival in the North African country.
Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.
A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing, even in terms of compassion.
The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.
The Islamic movement, however, called for lifting an official ban on the wearing of hijab in Tunisia.
Such ban is a "major injustice," Bhiri said.
Women should have the freedom "to choose what to wear according to their convictions but on condition they do not harm public morale or the liberty of others," he said.
He urged Education Minister Taeeb Baccouche to "urgently take the decision to repeal" the ban in the schools and universities.
Under Ben Ali's rule, Tunisians were banned from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress in Islam, in public places.
In 1981, then president Habib Bourguiba ratified a law banning women from wearing hijab in state offices.
Worse still, Ben Ali’s government issued in the 1980s and 1990s more restrictive enactments including the notorious 102 law, which considers hijab a “sign of extremism” and banned it.
The move was a part of the ousted leader's campaign to restrict the spread of ideas and religious symbols which could strengthen the country's Islamic opposition.The decree was issued banning what was described as "sectarian dress", but given the fact that 98% of the population are Sunni Muslims, basing the ban on "sectarian" grounds sounded bizarre.