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Hammamet festival showcases play on tolerance

By Houda Trabelsi for Magharebia in Tunis – 20/07/10

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A new play about a Maghreb philosopher who defended tolerance is causing a stir at the Hammamet festival of music and theatre.

The play, "Ibn Rushd", is a "message to a community that [faces] serious problems by not accepting others", the author, Ezzedine Madani, told Magharebia.

The play tackles the issue of tolerance "in a society that is dominated by intolerance and blind dogmatism," Madani added.

The 46th International Festival of Hammamet runs July 13th- August 21st with a line-up of Tunisian and world music stars including French rappers IAM, Tunisians Anouar Brahem and Leila Hejaiej, Canadian singer Garou and Marwan Khoury of Lebanon. Twelve plays from local, Palestinian, French and Iraqi theatrical troupes are also part of the programme.

The festival's theatrical offerings kicked off on July 13th with Madani's play, which recounts the reign of the caliph Mouahidi Abu Yusuf, aka Mansur, who ruled the entire Islamic Maghreb from the Egyptian border to the very end of Morocco, as well as Andalusia.

Mansur pursued an extremist agenda, persecuting Jews and Christians. The philosopher Ibn Rushd defended the latter because they were members of the Andalusian community and they had the same rights and duties as the Muslims who were the majority.

Many young people took part in the production on the occasion of the International Youth Year.

Young actor Chakib Ramadani told Magharebia that for young people, participating in the production was "a sign of recognition of those who are different and of a fruitful co-existence with all generations".

"No sensible person would fail to renounce extremism and intolerance, because they represent the key causes of the problems of humanity, such as wars, killing and displacement of innocent people, and all that for personal interests", he said.

Young actress Yousr Trabelsi said: "The socialisation of young people in such works and including them with professionals who have 50 years of experience will develop the Tunisian theatre scene and raise a theatre-oriented generation".

Yousr said the play promoted the principle of "'no compulsion in religion', as told by our religion of Islam, and it's urgent and necessary to spread the values of tolerance and co-existence with all religions to renounce all forms of violence, especially the wars that have killed millions of innocent people around the world".

Moncef Souissi, who performed the role of Ibn Rushd, said: "The issue of tolerance and non-violence is an important one that dates back to the earliest times, and therefore, we should focus on it, especially in works of art".

"Ibn Rushd is one of the most prominent historical figures who fought intolerance and religious extremism; this is what forced Ibn Rushd to hide after an altercation with Caliph Mansur in his home, which made [Ibn Rushd] become a leader of the Andalusian school of philosophy for the dissemination of science and the values of tolerance", he added.

Such sentiments left a mark on many of the audience members who spoke to Magharebia after the performance.

"Although the theatrical events are ancient, the message that can be understood as valid for every place and time, because the issue of religious extremism has become the fuel for all the ancient, modern and contemporary wars and crimes against humanity," said Moez Ben Mahmoud.

"Religious extremism is a concern not only for Muslims, but for all religions on Earth, and therefore the only solution, in order live in peace, is to accept the 'other' in peaceful co-existence," said Abir Ben Naser.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2010-7-20

    Reading the title “…play on tolerance”, I immediately thought the author had to be Ben Ali, the champion of tolerant language. That Ben Brik just spent six months in prison for believing in the freedom of speech in Tunisia bears witness to this. In four years, we will hear another witness – that of the journalist Fahem Boukadous, who was kidnapped last week from the hospital where he was receiving care for his serious respiratory ailments. Torn from his wife’s arms, he was immediately delivered to prison to spend four years in confine. This is yet another example of Tunisian tolerance because the July heat in Tunisia is intolerable for journalists who suffer from respiratory ailments. This refutes the rumours claiming that Boukadous was sentenced to prison for speaking about the disorder with the miners in the region of Gafsa in 2008. The disorders went ignored by official Tunisian press because deaths resulted from them. But, you should not believe these lies because the court that convicted Boukadous specifies that his sentencing had “no connection to his journalistic activities.” Anyone who knows of the Tunisian courts’ independence will be convinced. According to Boukadous’ indictment, he was convicted for “involvement in a criminal organisation”. Perhaps Boukadous planned to go steal luxury yachts in Europe or even in Corsica. The truth is that the thugs who did this sport have enjoyed a lot of tolerance in the past. But, on whose part?