73% of Tunisians in favour of religion-politics divide

Tunis - The vast majority of Tunisians - 72.8% - are in favour of the separation of religion and politics, according to the results of a telephone survey carried out by Sigma Conseil and the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation and presented in Tunis.

The survey, titled 'Religion and politics in North Africa' and based on a sample of 1,000 people in Tunisia, Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt, also provides other useful elements for better understanding the societies and sensibilities of the inhabitants of the countries involved.

Generally speaking interviewees considered themselves to be Muslim first and citizens second, with the exception of Tunisia where 53.2% of respondents said they feel Tunisian, 37.6% Muslim and 6.8% Arab. Religious identity is still an important factor in Tunisia, however, with 48.1% of respondents putting it before national identity. Further, the interviewees in all five countries surveyed were almost unanimous in considering Islam important or very important in their lives. Observance of religious obligations varied from country to country, with the biggest differences emerging in relation to the application of the Sharia.

On this count 69.5% of Tunisians were opposed, while 78.7% of Libyans, 62.9% of Algerians, 59.7% of Egyptians and 54.9% of Moroccans were in favour.

In addition, 75.6% of Tunisians disapproved intervention by imams in politics and 57.6% considered Islam to have a negative impact on politics. Some 83.1% of respondents considered terrorist attacks to be an offence to Islam, while 32.7% of Tunisians considered religious extremism to be "a bad interpretation of Islam", 31% an insult to religion and 26.1% membership of a terrorist organisation. For 22.2% of respondents, religious extremism has its roots in "a bad interpretation of Islam", for 21.2% in unemployment and poverty, and for 14.3% in recklessness. Some 30.4% of Tunisians considered the West to be primarily responsible for inciting religious extremism, while 16.3% pointed the finger at Islamist parties and 11.1% at Wahhabism. Though a large number of foreign fighters come from Tunisia, the respondents strongly disapproved of Islamic State. Tunisia is the country where interviewees considered the Daesh to have the most negative impact on the economy and were most concerned about the consequences for security. In conclusion, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation concluded that Tunisia stands out from other countries in the region for its better balance between religious identity and citizenship.