The constitution declares the country’s religion to be Islam but also declares the country to be a “civil state.” The constitution designates the government as the “guardian of religion” and obligates the state to disseminate the values of “moderation and tolerance.” It prohibits the use of mosques and houses of worship to advance political agendas or objectives, and guarantees freedom of belief, conscience, and exercise of religious practice. Following deadly terrorist attacks in March and June, the government closed 80 mosques, which it said were built without proper authorization or whose imams it accused of preaching extremist theology, as well as 80 Islamic associations it accused of extremism. The Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) dismissed 20 imams it accused of preaching radical ideology or conducting inappropriate activities inside mosques. The prime minister’s office issued a warning it might suspend the Hizb al-Tahrir political party (Liberation Party) if the party did not cease its activities aimed at creating an Islamic caliphate ruled by Islamic law. The government continued to allow the Jewish and Christian communities to worship freely.
Terrorist attacks on March 18 at the Bardo Museum in Tunis and on June 26 at two hotels in Sousse resulted in the deaths of 22 and 38 people respectively, many of them foreigners. A terrorist attack on November 24 in Tunis killed 12 members of the presidential guard. Da’esh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) claimed responsibility for the attacks, although reports suggested members of local terrorist groups had perpetrated them.
Christian converts from Islam said threats of violence from members of their families and other persons reflected societal pressure against Muslims leaving the faith. In March unknown individuals damaged the grave of 18th century Jewish author and scholar Rabbi Masseoud Elfassi.
The U.S. Ambassador, embassy officers, and visiting senior U.S. government officials met with government officials, including at the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, to urge continued tolerance of religious minorities. U.S. officials also discussed the government’s efforts to control activities in mosques as well as threats to Muslims who had converted to other faiths. Embassy officers discussed religious diversity and dialogue with leaders of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. On May 6, the U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism participated in the Lag B’Omer Pilgrimage to the El-Ghriba synagogue on the island of Djerba, where he discussed religious pluralism and the safety of the Jewish community with Jewish leaders and civil society.