Tunisian women allowed to marry non-Muslims

Decision to overturn 1973 law is first in the Muslim world and is hailed by many

Gulf News Report
18:51 September 15, 2017
Beji Qaid Al Sebsi

Dubai: Tunisia has overturned a law that banned women from marrying non-Muslims—a first in the Muslim world.

A spokeswoman for President Beji Qaid Al Sebsi made the announcement and congratulated women on gaining “the freedom to choose one’s spouse”.

Tunisian professor Mohammad Hidi Zaiem said the proposals give a new impetus to moderate Islam.

“The only moderate Islam is that which recognises the need not only to interpretation but also to evolution,” he said, calling the battle for renewing religious discourse “the mother of all battles”.

Until now, a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian Muslim woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof.

Tunisia, which is 99 per cent Muslim, is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab countries in terms of women’s rights.

The new law comes after Al Sebsi pushed for the lifting of the marriage restriction decree that was put in place in 1973.

He said in a speech last month, during celebrations of the National Women’s day, that the marriage law was “an obstacle to the freedom of choice of the spouse”.

The restriction was also seen as violating Tunisia’s constitution which was adopted in 2014 in the wake of the Arab Spring revolution.

Some analysts suggest the president is trying to win back support from women who supported him widely in 2014 elections for his modernising programme, but then grew disillusioned after he allied with the Islamist party Al Nahda.