Tunisia holds mega Ramadan after terror attack
A body representing Tunisia’s tourism restaurants held a large Ramadan iftar meal in central Tunis on Thursday and invited Christians, Jews and foreigners as a way of showing solidarity following last week’s massacre at a beach in Sousse by an Islamist militant.
The National Federation of Tourism Restaurants is a group which claims to represent 50,000 people involved in the tourism industry. An industry that has been hit hard by an attack in March on a museum in the heart of the capital Tunis which claimed 21 lives and last week’s shooting spree massacre at a beach resort in Sousse that left 38 tourists, including 30 Brits, dead.
The event to host a Ramadan iftar meal to non-Muslims alongside Muslims attempted to heal a general fear of insecurity and make foreigners and religious minorities feel welcome in the North African country despite the growing threat of Islamist militancy.
Tunisian Mohamed Rahbi who works with a German firm brought along his colleagues to the event to put them at ease following what he says was increased anxiety following last week’s attack in Sousse.
“We have a delegation of our colleagues from Germany who came to our place this week. They were a little bit afraid regarding the situation here, so I just wanted to show them the other face of Tunisia, to show them the secure, safe and peaceful people,” he said.
His German colleague however said he didn’t feel there was any change in the country’s general security despite the Sousse attack.
“It didn’t change (my mind to come here), but it was very hard and critical for the people here in Tunisia, but for us. Nothing has changed. If I was afraid I would not be here,” he said.
Around 1,000 meals were served after the call to prayer at sunset meant the fast could be broken. But many tables had remained empty.
Representatives from the three Abrahamic faiths attended the event and Tunisian mufti (senior cleric) Hamda Said said he felt the gathering was a step towards defeating extremism.
“This is a symbol of the victory of Tunisia, with God’s help it’s a victory against terrorism. This is a unification of efforts to save Tunisia, and this is an effort to unify religions in order to achieve peace in the world,” he said.
Ilario Antoniazzi, a Tunisian archbishop, said Christians didn’t feel threatened in the country.
“The Sousse attack was not against Christians, we live as Tunisian people, with their happy and sad moments.”
The family members of victims of the Bardo musuem attack in March were honoured on stage at the event.
Agustin Pierra Sanchez lost both his parents in that attack but said he appreciated the general sense of solidarity he was seeing.
“I feel sadness and resignation and I appreciate the displays of warmth and the demonstrations here in Tunis to honour my parents and the other victims assassinated that day,” he said.
Tunisian authorities have said both the gunmen who committed the Bardo attack and the one who committed the attack in Sousse both received trained in military tactics across the border in Libya, where several Islamist armed groups have profited from the country’s political chaos to expand their influence and set up base.
More than 3,000 Tunisians have left to fight for Islamic State and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya.
To counter jihadist recruitment after the Sousse attack, Tunisian authorities say they are closing down 80 mosques that are either illegal or are known to be used by radical imams preaching hardline messages.
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