Universities worried by perceived Islamic influence

Academics are concerned over a proposal by an Islamic council to introduce Sharia university courses and other attempts to ‘fraternise’ Tunisian universities.

The general secretary of the General Federation of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Houcine Boujarra, condemned a proposal by the Higher Council of Tunisian Ulamas to integrate Sharia courses outside normal university procedures, reported La Presse of Tunis.

Boujarra also claimed the higher education ministry wanted to ‘fraternise’ Tunisian universities – a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood movement – and that an Islamist influence existed in the entourage of the Minister of Higher Education, Slim Khalbous, which wanted to revive some initiatives dating from the ‘Troika’ government, reported La Presse.

The Troika, in power during the political crisis in 2013, was an alliance dominated by the Islamist Ennahda movement.

Boujarra was speaking at a press conference held in support of three academics who had recently been questioned by police following a complaint from a lecturer.

The academics are Hmaied Ben Aziza, president of the University of Tunis; Sofien Ghali, director-general of the École Supérieure des Sciences Économiques et Commerciales de Tunis, or ESSECT, which is attached to the university; and Soltan Trabelsi, ESSECT’s secretary general.

The academics and unions who organised the press conference believe the police summonses were closely linked to the wishes of “certain parties” to introduce projects that were contrary to the principles of academic freedom, reported La Presse.

Aziza said the disagreement with an ESSECT lecturer, which concerned “educational and professional” matters, should have been dealt with by the higher education authorities, not the justice ministry. The presidents of all Tunisia’s 11 universities signed a statement in support of the University of Tunis board, declaring that its decisions were legitimate and must be applied, reported La Presse.

This article is drawn from local media. University World News cannot vouch for the accuracy of the original reports.