We don’t know how strong the Islamist threat is in Tunisia. The country has a long tradition of secularisation, and some vocal secularists.
Yet that was true in Iran, too, in 1978-9, in the tumult which ended with the coming to power of Khomeini’s Islamist dictatorship, more crushing even than the Shah’s. That tumult included tremendous workers’ strike movements on democratic and secular demands; but the fact that the mosques had become the only tolerated place of opposition under the Shah, the strength of the Islamist cadre of clerics and religious students, and the complaisance of the left towards the Islamists, proved decisive.
The British left has not learned the lessons of Iran. At the Labour Representation Committee conference in London on 15 January, the invited platform speaker on Tunisia was Mohammed Ali Harrath, former leader of the Tunisian Islamic Front and now CEO of Islam Channel, a TV station charged by some (including Yvonne Ridley, whom it sacked) with anti-Shia bigotry.