TUNIS — At first glimpse one might think it is happening in the US notorious prison of Guantanamo: a jail guard throwing off a copy of the Noble Qur'an down the toilet. The harsh reality is that it took place twice in Muslim Tunisia.
The International Campaign for Human Rights (ICHR) in Tunisia revealed the macabre incident in a statement, a copy of which was obtained by IslamOnline.net Friday, November 17.
"A police officer wanted to soften an Islamic prisoner by throwing a copy of the Noble Qur'an down the toilet," read the statement, noting that the first desecration of the Qur'an took place early this month.
The organization said angry prisoners went on a hunger strike on November 6, protesting the "outrageous crime."
In June, the Tunisian league for Human Rights disclosed that another officer hit an Islamist prisoner with the Qur'an and then kicked the holy book.
Instead of putting the officer on trial, the League said, authorities questioned rights League members for uncovering the matter.
The mother of the prisoner, who blew the whistle, told the League that her son was tortured and pressed by prison officials to reverse his statements.
The statement warned of "disregarding the sensibilities of Tunisians and millions of Muslims around the world."
It demanded the authorities severely punish officers responsible for the heinous act.
The strongly-worded statement said the Tunisian government would encourage such outrageous acts against Islam and Muslims if it continued turning a blind eye to the incident.
"It would isolate Tunisia further from the Arab and Islamic fold, and fuel angry and frustration among the Muslim people of Tunisia," it said.
Abdel-Ra'ouf Al-Ayaadi, vice president of Congress for the Republic party, warned that desecrating religious symbols could be a "common practice" in Tunisia due to such impunity.
"The first incident went unpunished and authorities even tried to hush angry voices," he told IOL.
"This manner would pave the way for more violations in the future," he said.
Such desecrations are aimed at "bringing fervent Islamists to their kneels," added Ayaadi. "
Human rights watchdogs have repeatedly denounced unfair trials of Islamist prisoners in Tunisia, many of whom have been sentenced to over 15 years in prison.
Amnesty International warned on November 14 that hundreds of government opponents remained behind bars as the harassment of their families and rights campaigners continued.
Some needed urgent treatment after being tortured and subjected to harsh prison conditions.
The ICHR said the Qur'an abuse is part of "systemic attack" on Islam in Tunisia, citing the crackdown on hijab-clad women and mosque imams.
The government has launched a wide-scale campaign against imams during the holy month of Ramadan, replacing popular preachers with others who toe the state line.
The debate on the hijab ban in Tunisia heated up in the past few months as human rights activists, lawyers and intellectuals lashed out at the government oppressive campaign launched every academic year against hijab-clad students.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, some of those students were forced to give up their education to escape the continuous abuse, activists say.
In 1981, then Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba (1956-1987) ratified law no. 108 banning Tunisian women from wearing hijab in state offices.
Worse still, the government issued in the 1980s and 1990s more restrictive enactments.
Islam sees Hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.