Tunis — Tunisian imams are divided over whether to stage a general strike on Eid al-Adha.
On Monday (September 30th), the National Union of Tunisian Imams denied any plans to prevent festivities, while Abdessalam Atoui of the National Executive Committee of Mosques criticised strike organiser Fadhel Achour as "not an imam but a muezzin at Zaytouna".
The issue arose last Wednesday, when Achour, the head of the imams' union, declared a "what Eid?" strike to protest "takfirist" trends at some mosques and the inaction by the religious affairs ministry to stop the phenomenon.
"The religious sector, like all other sectors in the country, is facing many problems because of the current government's failure to implement any reform programmes, whether economic, social or political," Achour said.
The decision to stage the strike had "no political or personal motives; rather, it was taken to warn all actors of the need to rescue the country", he said.
His union plans to file a lawsuit against the Religious Affairs Minister Noureddine Khadmi, following statements he made about protecting a number of imams who issued fatwas allowing jihad annikah.
The fatwas allegedly prompted many Tunisian girls to travel to Syria and return home pregnant.
Achour blamed the religious affairs ministry for its failure to run mosques and Qur'anic schools in the country. His union also plans to kick off a campaign at all mosques across the country entitled "No to Wahhabism!"
According to the union, attacks on imams exceeded 1,060; 1,300 political and partisan speeches were delivered at mosques; and 6,000 complaints were filed by imams and worshippers expressing their anger over inflammatory speeches and attackers' behaviours.
The union also claimed that 216 mosques had been turned into platforms for radicals.
Still, Achour's plan to bring attention to the problem with an Eid al-Adha strike is prompting strong reaction from citizens.
"Eid prayers are a duty on all Muslims," Tunis man Touhami Jmili said. "Religion and politics should not mix," he told Magharebia.
Abdessatar Majdoub, 39, said, "How dare they call for depriving Muslims of an observed ritual in their religion? The conflict today is between the Islamists and secularists, so, what do prayers have to do with that?"
For his part, trader Mohamed Chérif stressed the need to ban political speeches at mosques.
"Now in Tunisia, mosques are controlled by salafists, Ennahda, or are neutral and moderate," he said.
"The mix between religion and politics has divided us into currents and groups," he added.