So too with Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution. During the last days of Ben Ali's regime, protesters in Tunis held high baguettes, not weapons. Many foreign commentators immediately concluded that the demonstrators were protesting high food prices, but as Julia Clancy-Smith notes, the brandished baguettes meant something else entirely: The people would not be bought off by Ben Ali's frantic promises to create thousands of jobs. Bread, yes, but a threat as well as a demand: the protestors were in effect saying that they would eat only bread as long as liberty was denied. This is, moreover, a demand aimed at all the political parties and not just Ennahda. As one Tunisian student recently warned in Le Monde: "It is high time to begin a second revolution in our way of thinking. Rather than waiting for change, we the young must create it."
This youthful urgency, in France then and Tunisia now, results largely from the confrontation between secular and religious forces. In Delacroix's painting, rising above the smoke and confusion of the street, are the towers of Notre Dame cathedral. Fluttering above them is the French tricolor flag, marking the ascendancy of republican over religious values. Ever since 1789, tensions in France between the Catholic Church and secular society had deepened, breeding extremists in both camps. The so-called ultras, the moniker adopted by the militant Catholics who controlled the Chamber of Deputies, spurred popular resentment in their effort to impose their faith: the Chevaliers of the Faith, who sought, in the words of their leading intellectual, Louis de Bonald, to substitute the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen with the Declaration of the Rights of God. Aligned with fanatical groups busily erecting crosses and burning books, the ultras passed a notorious law that prescribed the death penalty for acts of sacrilege.
Although the eras and religions differ, the fear of modernity and the repudiation of politics shown by the ultras in France and Salafists in Tunisia are all too similar. While the term Salafi covers a vast mosaic of groups and a great variety of Quranic interpretations across the Muslim world, the most violent and anti-democratic movements in Tunisia have embraced the term. Just as the Chevaliers of the Faith and the French ultras dismissed secular political parties as a pestilence, so too do Salafists look with a jaundiced eye at Tunisia's secular political parties. In fact, the Salafists pose a peril to any effort by moderates within Ennahda to seek popular support. Belaid, the assassinated critic, had repeatedly warned against the rise of religious violence orchestrated by the Salafists -- and abetted, if only through its silence, by the ruling Ennahda.
Marianne has particular resonance too for Tunisian women, who are especially alive to the threat presented by the Salafi movement. Of course, no more in 1830 than in 2013 were there bare-breasted women brandishing rifles and leading workers and students against the forces of reaction. Yet with Marianne, Delacroix created a figure that is at once thoroughly mythic and strikingly real. Marianne embodies not just the form of ancient Greek models -- Winged Victory of Samothrace is perhaps the most powerful inspiration -- but also channels the many instances of (fully clothed) women in the streets who helped the wounded and hauled paving stones to the barricades. In fact, Delacroix was in part inspired by the contemporary account of Marie Deschamps, who took her fallen brother's place on a Parisian barricade. Tunisian women have acted with similar courage. There is the example of Khaoula Rachidi, a university student in Tunis beaten by Salafists when she tried to prevent them from replacing the Tunisian flag with the black Salafi banner on her campus, and that of Besma Khalfaoui, the wife of Belaid, who declared that her husband's assassination "gives us reason to hope" -- hope, of course, that those who believed the revolution did not need to be defended will now wake up.