Arab Social Media Erupts Over Tunisian Bill Allowing Muslim Women to Marry Non-Muslims

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TEL AVIV — A draft bill presented to the Tunisian parliament that would give women and men equality with regard to inheritance laws and allow Muslim Tunisian women to marry non-Muslim men has drawn anger from conservative circles in the country and the wider Arab world.

The fact that Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi supports the bill has only increased the anger of its opponents.

While sharia law allows Muslims to marry non-Muslim women who convert to Islam, the law forbids a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam. Sharia law also states that two-thirds of an inheritance can go to men while just one third remains for women.

The bill has been covered extensively by social media users in the Arab world, with most discussing the inheritance law rather than the parts of the bill that would allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men, most likely due to the assumption that the number of such cases will be low in the face of familial and societal opposition.

One social media user from Saudi Arabia known as Handala wrote, “Islam has divided justice between a man and a woman and now the fools come and demand equality between the two sexes.”

Egyptian journalist Mirna al-Helbawi criticized women who oppose the bill, writing, “The real problem is that most of those in opposition are women and girls. When that’s our disgusting situation it’s no wonder governments do what they do.”

A Twitter account known as “I’m an Arab” posted a video showing Tunisia’s Mufti expressing opposition to the bill in the past and supporting it today, suggesting that the Mufti is being pressured to support the bill.

Egyptian activist John Samir wrote sarcastically, “The leader Essebsi suggests that once the woman gets pregnant and once the man gets pregnant in order to have equality in Tunisia.”

Moroccan journalist Brother Rasheed wrote, “Tunisia has adopted equality in inheritance between men and women and gave up the text of the Quran that clarifies the inequality between men and women on the subject.”

Egyptian activist Marwa Kassab wrote to men, “It’s your right to oppose equality and to continue demanding the maintenance of the current situation and it’s your right to state your opinion but please stop with your pathetic games and exercises.”

Tunisian journalist Muhammad al-Midi criticized former Tunisian president Munsif Marzouki for supporting the bill, writing, “An unfortunate announcement by president Dr. Munsif Marzouki that he will be the first to support equal inheritance between men and women. This is a mistaken position and I call on him to retract it.”

Egyptian social media user Hajouj wrote, “My opinion, which means nothing, is that equality between the man and the woman in all areas will never be in the best interests of the woman.”

The Twitter account called Summer wrote, “Naturally, I would prefer equality in inheritance be based on sharia. I support the idea not from a desire to break the laws of sharia but out of disgust at what’s happening in reality in the absence of equality under the law.”

In another tweet, she added, “When my grandfather died, my father and brothers, the men, divided the inheritance between them and didn’t give anything to their sisters or their mother, promising to support them financially. The consequences of this act haunt us until today.”

Female Egyptian activist Alyaa Jad, wrote, “Sharia does injustice to women. The secular laws ensure equality between the sexes in inheritance, as does the power of female testimony in the courts and the independence of the woman.”

Egyptian author Muhammad Sinjer wrote, “Applauding Tunisia for changing the Arab perception of equal rights between men and women! It’s clear that they haven’t read the Quran and the Hadiths, and unfortunately they are also Muslims.”

Tunisian author Layla Cheeb was angry with those opposed to the bill and turned to the leader of North Korea for help. “Everyone has suddenly begun to understand equality and sharia, very good. I say to the president of North Korea, point the missile you’re setting aside for America at Tunisia.”

Egyptian journalist Muhammad Mujahed wrote, “The opinions of the people regarding equality in inheritance will let you differentiate between the dark, primitive and chauvinist minds and the enlightened and logical mind.”

Tunisian author Raja bin Salama wrote, “Rulings of religious law should be reduced to matters of worship. My opinion is that a state needs to be civil and that means no presence of religious authority.”

Tunisian journalist Tatiana el Khoury wrote, “Equality in inheritance between the man and the woman, and the right of the Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim and the prevention of polygamy. … O Tunisia, you carry the flag of the Arab world, bravo!”

Tunisian political activist Jaouhar bin Mubarak wrote, “The initiative of the president to present the bill for equality in inheritance and the right for Tunisian woman to choose their partners is an excellent step. Period and no buts.”

Muhammad al-Fazari, an activist from Oman, wrote, “I congratulate Tunisian women for achieving the two demands, the right to marry a non-Muslim and equality in inheritance. I wish for all women to receive their rights.”

Tunisian activist Nizar preferred to criticize the government for the initiative, writing, “My problem with the president in this story of equality in inheritance is that he’s trying to convince us that there are Tunisians who still have something to leave behind.”


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