New Tunisian parliament considering Jewish seats

TUNIS, Tunisia (JTA) — The drafters of Tunisia’s post-revolutionary constitution are considering a plan to allocate seats in the country’s new parliament to Jews.

A majority of members of the committee on legislative and executive power in the Tunisian Constituent Assembly, the body elected in October 2011 to draft the country’s new constitution, indicated in discussions that Jews should be allocated seats in the new parliament, according to a report by Africa Manager, a local news outlet. Disagreement remains among members of the commission over allocating permanent seats to other religious minorities in Tunisia.

A local Jewish community leader expressed opposition to the idea of having permanent seats allocated to Jews in the parliament.

“I am a Tunisian like any other Tunisian, and I want a parliament where people are elected based on their qualifications to serve the people and not on their religious confessions,”  Roland Sa’ada told JTA. “I might be Jewish, but I know many Muslims who could represent my ideas in parliament who I would vote for. Likewise, I would hope a Muslim would vote for a Jew running for parliament if he agreed with his ideas and thought he was qualified.”

Yamina Thabet, the president of the Tunisian Association for the Support of Minorities, called the effort absurd and a form of discrimination.

“If you are really serious about the equality of Tunisian citizens disregarding race, religion and cultural identities you will not be talking about seats allocated for some specific group of people,” she wrote on the association’s Facebook page. “We would like to see the government seriously criminalize all forms of discrimination, stop protesters who call for the murder of Jews, stop imams who call for the torture of non-Muslims, and non-Muslims should be allowed to serve as president."

Currently there is a provision in the interim constitution stating that the president must be Muslim.

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