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February 22, 2018 4:31 pm

In Unusual Move, Tunisian Islamist Party Runs Jewish Candidate for Office

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

The historic Ghriba Synagogue in Tunisia. Photo: Issam Barhoumi via Wikimedia Commons.

A Tunisian Islamist party has made the unusual move of running a Jewish candidate for local office.

According to the Hebrew news site Walla, Simon Salama will be the candidate of the Ennahdha party in the city of Monastir. He appears at the top of the party’s electoral list.

Salama told a Turkish news agency that Ennahdha is “a civil party with an Islamic identity, open to modernity.” It has in the past identified with the Muslim Brotherhood

Growing up in Monastir, he added, “We stood together in the synagogue, the church, and the mosque. … Even though the children of the city had different faiths, citizenship united us.”

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Should he win the election, Salama said, he will encourage other Jews to participate in democratic elections.

“I don’t regret this attempt, he said, “because the future of Tunisia is more important than anything else.”

Salama’s candidacy has not met with an entirely positive reaction. Perez Trabelsi, head of the Tunisian Jewish community, told the outlet Hakaek, “The decision of the Nahdha movement does not seem to be as important as it was promoted, and the Jews of Tunisia could stand on the lists of other parties.”

He added that political parties in Tunisia sometimes “take advantage of Judaism to highlight that they apply pluralism” in order to further their “electoral goals and guide public opinion.”

He called Salama’s decision to run with Ennahdha “a personal decision.”

However, he said, the party itself is “interfering in the affairs of Tunisian Jews.”

Tunisia was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities in North Africa, but after Israel’s founding most Tunisian Jews moved there or to France.

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