Tunisia: Confronting Extremism

Part of: Religious Radicalism after the Arab Uprisings

In Chapter 4 of Religious Radicalism after the Arab Uprisings, Haim Malka analyzes the challenge that religious radicalism poses to Tunisia’s political transition. Jihadi-salafi groups thrived in Tunisia after the Ben Ali government fell in January 2011. By the end of 2012 two clear strains of jihadi-salafism emerged in the country. One prioritized social activism and religious outreach to mainstream audiences. The second pursued al Qaeda’s traditional approach of directly confronting security forces and the state. Tunisia’s two-pronged effort to combat extremist violence and ideology prevented further destabilization at a time of heightened political uncertainty and regional turmoil, but extremism will continue to undermine the promise of change in Tunisia if the government cannot find a way to reform the security sector, integrate fighters returning from Syria, incentivize peaceful political participation, and rebuild the credibility of the country’s religious institutions.