Prominent Islamist scandalizes Tunisia by dancing with scantily-clad actress

Former Islamist leader scandalizes Tunisia by dancing with scantily-clad actress at party
3 min read
17 February, 2021
Abdel Fattah Mourou, a co-founder and former deputy leader of the Islamist Ennahdha party, has shocked Tunisian society by dancing with scantily-clad actress Mariem Ben Moulehem while in clerical garb.
The photo of Mourou dancing with Ben Moulehem shocked Tunisia [Twitter]

A prominent former leader of Tunisia’s Islamist Ennahdha party has shocked Tunisia by dancing arm-in-arm with a scantily clad actress at her engagement party.

An image of Abdel Fattah Mourou, who was previously the deputy leader of Ennahdha and the deputy speaker of the Tunisian parliament, dancing with actress Mariem Ben Moulehem circulated widely on social media, drawing scandalized reactions from across the Arab world.

Yemeni activist and YouTuber Asaad Al-Shar’i said on Twitter, “Is this really Sheikh Abdel Fattah Mourou?? I am so shocked if it is! We were so influenced by this man and considered him a giant of Islamic thought and we don’t like to see him in this position!”

In an Instagram post featuring the photo of her dancing with Mourou, Ben Moulehem said she was “honoured and enlightened” that the former Islamist leader had attended her engagement party and read the opening chapter of the Qur’an there to bless it.

Ben Moulehem was wearing a low-cut sleeveless dress and some conservative Muslim Twitter users shared the picture of her dancing with Mourou with her upper body obscured. Mourou was wearing headgear and clothes traditionally worn by Muslim clerics.

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Ben Moulehem has starred in several Tunisian and Arab soap operas and her Instagram account features other pictures of her in revealing outfits.

On Facebook, Tunisian activist Rachid Suleimani asked, “How can Mr. Abdel Fattah Mourou allow himself to sink to this level. Is this what he wants for us? This is an insult to his age and position and far away from what God and his Prophet [Muhammad] commanded us.”

Some social media users went further, slamming Mourou as a hypocrite.

Under most interpretations of Islam, women are required to cover their whole body, except their face and hands, when in the presence of men they are unrelated to.

Most Muslims also consider public dancing and displays of affection between men and women forbidden.

However, some Tunisians defended Mourou’s actions. Journalist Bouthaina Gouaia said on Facebook, “Unlike many, I liked the photo of Mourou, which expresses personal freedom. You have a right to dance – a people who don’t know how to dance, don’t know revolution”.

Mourou, 72, has been active in Islamist politics in Tunisia ever since the 1960s. He co-founded Ennahdha with its current leader, Sheikh Rached Al-Ghannouchi, and was jailed in the 1990s under the rule of Tunisia’s former dictator, Zine el-Abidine ben Ali.

He has also written commentaries on several chapters of the Qur’an and worked on a dictionary of the Tunisian dialect of Arabic.

In 2019, Ennahdha nominated him as its candidate for presidential elections which were won by  current President Kais Saied. Last year, Mourou announced his retirement from political life.

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