Just a day after Essebsi called for reforms that would ensure women in the country are treated as equals to men when it comes to inheritance and marital rights, Deputy of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Abbas Shuman released a statement saying the proposed reforms go against Islamic Sharia.
In his statement, Sheikh Shuman said:
“The call for equality in inheritance between genders is unfair because women can already inherit more than men in certain situations.”
Shuman also commented on proposed reforms that would allow a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim men and explained that such a marriage would obstruct the stability of any union.
Essebsi's groundbreaking reform plans
In his speech, which coincided with Tunisia's National Women's Day, Essebsi urged Tunisia's Prime Minister and Minister of Justice to repeal article No 73 - a 1973 decree which prohibits Tunisian Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men.
The president also proposed amendments to the laws that govern women's inheritance in the country. According to Islamic law, women inherit half of what their brothers receive.
Essebsi wants to change that for Tunisian women, assuring the public that his views correlate with the country's Constitution.
Even though Al-Azhar scholars stood against the reforms mentioned in Essebsi's speech, Tunisia's Islamic scholars at Diwan al-Ifta backed him.
To them, the President's proposals "support the status of women and guarantee and implement the principle of equality between men and women in the rights and duties called for by Islam, as well as the international conventions ratified by the Tunisian state."
People are outraged over Al-Azhar's comments
Tunisia has long been hailed for leading the region in terms of women's rights. Its personal status laws are considered to be one of the most progressive in the Arab world.
This possibly explains why many in the country refused to accept Al Azhar's latest comments and expressed their anger over them on Twitter.
Tunisians refuse Al Azhar's 'interference'
"Repeat after me: Tunisia is a civil state, it's not Egypt, and Al Azhar has no rule over our country."
"In TUNISIA, we don't stand by while men decide what should we do with our bodies and lives!!"
"Tunisians can decide without intervention from other countries"
"Tunisia, you're a light amid this darkness"
Egyptians also took a stand against Al Azhar
"We say yes to more gender equality across the Arab world. This is every Tunisian and Arab woman's right. The attack on the proposed reforms is not in our name."
However, a few still stood with Al Azhar's criticism
"Whether you agree with Al Azhar or not, their objection to the proposed reforms in Tunisia is considered a respectable move."