TUNIS: Tunisia’s religious affairs minister was fired on Friday for “attacking the foundations of diplomacy” after he publicly suggested the conservative form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia had links to extremism.
A government statement said Prime Minister Youssef Chahed had relieved Abdeljalil Ben Salem of his duties due to his “attack” on Tunisia’s diplomatic principles.
On Thursday Ben Salem confirmed during a parliament session that he had “dared” to question Riyadh’s ambassador to Tunis, as well as the secretary general of Arab interior ministers — a Saudi national — about Saudi Wahhabism being a “vehicle for terrorism”.
“I say to Saudis… reform your school because terrorism has historically come from it. I say this to you with love and modesty,” the minister said, according to the private Mosaique FM radio station.
Wahhabism, the fundamentalist school of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, has been accused of inspiring extremist ideologies in the region.
Ben Salem tried to row back from his comments, issuing a statement saying that Tunisia’s relations with the kingdom were “completely harmonious”.
Tunisia has witnessed a series of extremist attacks since the popular uprising of 2011, including deadly attacks on foreign tourists in 2015.