TUNIS - A visit by Muslim scholar Wagdy Ghoneim has Tunisia has sparked fury from the country's secularists, threatening a legal action against the Egyptian-born preacher.
"We are in the process of filing a complaint... against those who are using mosques to political ends," activist and lawyer Bochra Belhaj Hmida told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
"There's an attack on Tunisia's sovereignty and there is no justification for using mosques to spread hateful and seditious ideology."
Ghoneim arrived in Tunisia earlier this week at an invitation from four Muslim groups to deliver a number of religious sermons.
The Egyptian-born preacher was cheered by thousands of Tunisians at a sport venue in the capital Tunis on Saturday.
Ghoneim, who is set to stay in Tunisia until Friday, February 17, addressed worshippers in the eastern city of Sousse and in Mehdia, around 200 kilometers (125) miles south of the capital.
"Tunisia was the first country to have its revolution and, God willing, it will be the first to implement Shari`ah (or Islamic law)," Ghoneim told the religious radio station Zitouna on Wednesday.
Born in 1951 in Egypt's coastal city of Alexandria, Ghoneim is a well-know Muslim preacher.
He was imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in California until 2005.
Ghoneim was forced to leave the US for visa overstay. Since then, he has been living in Yemen and Qatar.
Tunisian groups accuse Ghoneim of promoting polygamy and female genital mutilation.
"He has incited to hatred and violence, notably against other religions. He has advocated polygamy despite it being banned under (Tunisia's) personal status code," civil society group Kolna Tounes said in a letter to the Tunisian authorities.
"He has also abetted the undermining of women's physical integrity by advocating female circumcision," the letter said.
Islam sees polygamy as a realistic answer to some social woes like adulterous affairs and lamentable living conditions of a widow or a divorced woman.
A Muslim man who seeks a second or a third wife should, however, make sure that he would treat them all on an equal footing.
The Noble Qur'an says that though polygamy is lawful it is very hard for a man to guarantee such fairness.
As for female circumcision, Muslim scholars for decades have emphasized that there is no Islamic basis for the very harmful practice, which causes many deaths among young girls each year.
Tension between secularists and Islamists has been on the rise in Tunisia since the Islamic-leaning Ennhada party won most votes in the October election.One of Ennahda's partners in the government coalition, the leftist Ettakatol, has urged the Islamist party to make its position on Ghoneim's visit known.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net