The young man at the entrance to Zitouna, the oldest mosque in the Tunis medina, was adamant. Non-Muslims could no longer enter the building, not even just its outside gallery overlooking the busy souk.
“You can only come in if you declare, ‘There is no god but God and Mohammad is God’s messenger’,” he said – effectively making conversion to Islam the new admission ticket to a monument that used to welcome non-Muslim visitors.
Hardline views like these have spread through Tunisia in the past two years as radical Muslims seized control of about a fifth of all mosques, attacked westernised liberals and tried to impose their puritan ideas on one of the most secular Arab societies.
The governing party Ennahda, which formally advocates a democratic form of Islamism, long treated the radicals mildly, seeing them as informal allies in reclaiming Islam’s place in the small North African country.