Tunisia - Religions

Islam is the state religion and nearly all Tunisians are Sunni Muslims. A small number are of the mystical Sufi branch. The Christian community, which contains only about 20,000 people, is made up primarily of Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, French Reform, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, and a small number of Jehovah's Witnesses. There are approximately 1,800 Jews in the country and about 150 Baha'is.

The constitution provides for the free exercise of religions that do not disturb the public order. Under this stipulation, the early 1980s brought a government offensive against the growing Islamic fundamentalist movement. In 1981, two fundamentalist parties were banned, and some 100 members were brought to trial and sentenced to prison terms for offending the dignity of the head of state and belonging to an unauthorized organization. Another crackdown on Islamic fundamentalists began in 1986, with about 2,000 arrested in 1986 and 1987. In the early 1990s, the Islamist group An-Nahdha was declared illegal as the government claims it is a terrorist organization attempting to overthrow the government.

Though members of other established, non-Muslim religions are generally allowed to practice freely, proselytizing is prohibited by law. Muslims who convert to another faith are often denied the right to vote, obtain a passport, and to enlist in the army, as well as facing social discrimination. Members of the Baha'i faith are only allowed to practice their faith in private, since the government considers the religion to be a heretical sect of Islam.

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