One of the last remaining Jews in Tunisia in running for office as a member of the Islamist party, according to a report by the Associated Press Friday.
Simon Slama, 56, is a Jewish sewing machine salesman and repairman running for office in the upcoming municipal election in May as a member of the Islamist party, also known as the Ennahdha Party.
Slama is one of the last Jews left in the one-time vibrant Jewish community in the city of Monastir, which used to have a population of approximately 520 Jews. Tunisia overall used to have a Jewish population of 100,000 in the 1940s and 1950s, however, most of the population resettled in France and Israel due to increasing antisemitism and rise in Arab nationalism.
Critics of Slama’s choice to represent the Islamist party see it as a calculated move to restore relations with Western allies, but others see it as an explanation for religious tolerance in the country.
“I see no difference between the Islamic and Judaic religions. We are all one family and we are all Tunisian citizens and we should go hand in hand to build the Tunisia of tomorrow,” Slama said. The new politician also said that he chose the Ennahdha party since he believes it is gaining popularity. Monastir is currently suffering from economic and social tensions.
Adel Messaoud, the leader of the party in Monastir, admitted that it’s “a bit bizarre” to have a Jewish candidate for the Islamic party said that the party wants to separate its political opinions from its ideological.
“We are really an open party. It is not about trying to please anyone. We took into account the country’s general interest, which is going through a unique democratic experience in the Arab world, which we want to succeed with the participation of all Tunisians regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation,” Messaoud said.
Borhene Basis, the leader of the opposition party Nidaa Tounes, called the Islamic party having a Jewish candidate a “propaganda operation” based on trying to appear open and tolerant to different religions, The Times of Israel added.
Monastir is around 105 miles south of Tunisia’s capital Tunis.
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