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Culture Tunisian Culture The Berbers were the original inhabitants of Tunisia, but waves of immigration over the centuries have brought Phoenicians, Jews, Romans, Vandals and Arabs. There was a major influx of Spanish Muslims in the 17th century, and the Ottoman Turks have also added their bit to the great ethnic mix. Islam is the state religion. Although while there has been a definite resurgence of religious adherence, particularly among the young and unemployed, the country remains fairly liberal. A small Jewish community practices in Tunis and on the island of Jerba, and there are also about 20,000 Roman Catholics. Thanks largely to the efforts of the secular, socialist former president, Habib Bourguiba, conditions for women in Tunisia are better than just about anywhere in the Islamic world - to western eyes, at least. Bourguiba outlawed polygamy and divorce by renunciation, and also placed limits on the tradition of arranging marriages, setting a minimum marriage age of 17 for girls and giving them the right to refuse a proposed marriage. His calling the veil 'an odious rag' led to its present state of scarcity. Still, ancient traditions die hard, and women travellers are well advised to keep their upper arms and shoulders covered and to opt for long skirts or trousers. Men wearing shorts are considered to be in their underwear and can sometimes incite indignation as well. Public displays of affection are frowned upon in most parts of the country.