Photo of a preacher in front of a school in the city of Sousse.
In front of schools, on buses or in public squares, and for several months now, a new phenomenon has been spreading across Tunisia: religious preachers. Whether they are originally from Tunisia or come from the Gulf States, more and more of them are using public spaces to promote their vision of religion.
The internet is awash with their videos, and there are pages on social media devoted to their beliefs. These preachers, whose messages can more or less be considered as radical, are imams who venture out from mosques to preach on the streets and call on people to “return to God’s path”. With microphones and loudspeakers in hand, they improvise sermons in ‘conversion tents’, or out on the street.
An imam preaching in front of a school in Sousse.
The same imam on a bus.
This form of public preaching is new to Tunisia, where the regime of former dictator Ben Ali outlawed any political or religious gatherings not organised by the government. There is no law banning or regulating preachers in public spaces. However, the authorities need to be notified of any public gathering before they are held. Lotfi Hidouri from the public communications office of the Interior Ministry told FRANCE 24 the ministry is aware of the phenomenon. However, he declined to say whether the ministry authorised gatherings held recently.