Tunisian chief rabbi opposes reserving parliament seats for Jews

(JTA) — The chief rabbi of Tunisia reportedly added his voice to those opposing a plan to allocate special seats in the country’s parliament to the Jewish community.

Rabbi Haim Bittan told the online magazine African Manager last week that while he appreciated the sentiments behind the proposal, it ran against civil law and contrary to the principles that characterized Tunisia over the centuries as a country that did not make distinctions between those of different faiths.

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

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.

“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,” Thabet 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."

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