Islam totally dominates in Tunisia, and it is also the state religion, involving everything from official participation in religious life to the requirement that the president must by Muslim. There are very small communities of Christians and Jews, and reports tell that Atheism is present, in particular in the elite and among the higher educated.
Religious rights are controlled by the state. Political activity motivated by religion is only accepted in very few cases. This regulation only affects Islamic groups, as there is no political activity stemming from the religious minorities.
Tunisia had a non-Muslim population of about 300,000 upon independence in 1956, corresponding to about 8% of the population. It is now down to between 30,000 and 50,000, or less than 0.5% of the population. The fall is mainly linked to emigration to Europe (Christians) and Israel (Jews).
Islam has dominated Tunisia ever since the very fast takeover by Muslim lords beginning in the late 7th century. Tunisia has seen periods with domination of other sects, and Shi'i dynasty of the Fatimids emerged from Tunisia. Ibadism has been a strong force in rural, often isolated regions, being an orientation appealing to smaller groups objecting to the dominance of the urban majority.
The present religious unity has come by with substantial suppression of minorities, but in modern Tunisia, the face of Islam is largely tolerant and non-extremist. Conservative Islam is virtually non-existent, but Islamism has gained much force in the country, and remains a potential challenge for the regime, although campaigns against it have been successful. In the 1980's, Tunisia was by many observers seen as more of a candidate for a struggle between the elite and the Islamists, than neighbouring Algeria, but the political changes of the country since 1987 turned the image, and saved Tunisia from a civil war that plagued Algeria through the 1990's.
Virtually all Muslims are Sunni, and belong largely to the Maliki branch of law and theology (see madhhab and Sharia), but there is also some of the Hanafi direction.
Sufism has been a strong force throughout Tunisian Islamic history, but today, very few of the communities remain. Since independence in 1956, their buildings and possessions were taken over by the government. Tunisia also has a strong tradition of maraboutism, the reverence of holy men and women and their graves, but although still popular it is marginalized and increasingly forgotten by the young generations.
Tunisia has a few important religious landmarks. Kairouan is considered a holy town for all Muslims, from the claim that one well is directly linked to the Zamzam (holy well) of Mecca; also it is hope of the alleged first minaret ever built. Zitouna Mosque in Tunisia is historically important for Islamic learning.
There are in the south pockets of Ibadi Islam. The only attested community is on Jerba, but it is suggested that in the settled inner regions close to the border to Libya, there are more Ibadis; Ibadism is present on the Libyan side of the border.
There are tiny communities of Christians in the largest cities, these are often descendants of Europeans settling here during the protectorate period. The largest church is the Roman Catholic, which operates 12 churches, 9 schools, libraries and 2 hospitals.
There are reports of Tunisian converts to Christianity, but only counting a few hundred.
Jews of Tunisia are divided between two communities, the smallest in Tunis, the majority on the island Jerba where their religious centre is located, it dates at least 1,400 years back in time, with the Ghriba synagogue in Hara Sghira on Jerba. Jews of Tunisia live peacefully with their Muslim neighbours, the number of Jews is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000; this number is not increasing.
It is often stated that there is a Baha'i presence in Tunisia, counting between 200 and 2,000 adherents, but this is not attested. Their Tunisian presence dates back to around 1900, arriving here as refugees.