Salafis attack Tunisian cultural festival
Radical Islamists armed with swords and sticks attacked a cultural festival in northern Tunisia late on Thursday, with five people injured in the clash.
It was the third time in just three days that Tunisia's emboldened Salafists have disrupted cultural events, condemning some of them for offending Muslim sensitivities during Ramadan and increasing fears of a rising Islamist tide.
At the music and theatre festival in Bizerte, "around 200 people belonging to the Salafist movement used violence to block a protest organized by various groups to mark Jerusalem Day, denouncing the presence of certain Arab guests," according to the interior ministry.
The ministry said it had dispersed the attackers with tear gas and arrested four of them, adding that five people were injured.
Festival organizers Khaled Boujemma and Slahedine Masri, speaking on private radio station Mosaique FM, said the Salafists were armed with swords and sticks. Human rights activist, Bechir Ben Cherifa, said the police waited an hour before intervening.
Witnesses said the hardliners were angered by the presence at the protest of Lebanese militant Samir Kantar, who spent nearly three decades in jail in Israel before being freed in 2008 in a prisoner swap with Hezbollah. Kantar, sentenced to multiple life sentences for a notorious 1979 attack in Israel that killed a policeman, a four-year-old girl and her father, is considered a hero by many in Lebanon and was honored by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after his release.
There is increasing concern among artists and activists in Tunisia about the extreme Sunni Muslim movement, which has grown more assertive since last year's uprising.
Two festivals have been cancelled this month and two cultural performances prevented just this week because of threats by the Salafists, who considered them un-Islamic.
Opposition groups have criticized Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party
leading Tunisia's ruling coalition, for failing to do more to rein in the hardliners.
| It's time to replace that with so-called moderate Islamist. "Moderate" with scare quotes is an acceptable alternative for those who prefer verbal efficiency. As expected, that was a ruse. |
Posted by: ryuge