Tunisian Islamists attack artists

Submitted by Matthew on 22 August, 2012 - 8:25

In June Salafists — hard-line Islamists — attacked a Tunis art gallery, sparking riots that left one person dead and more than 100 injured.

During the riots trade union buildings, courts and police stations were also attacked.

The government then banned Islamist marches apparently organised by the groups Hizb ut-Tahrir and Ansar al-Shariah.

Salafists are now systematically attacking cultural events they regard as “un-Islamic”. Five people were injured on Thursday 16 August when Islamists armed with swords and clubs disrupted the Bizerte music and theatre festival. Eventually the thugs were dispersed by police using tear gas.

Other shows have been cancelled. Last week the well-known actor, Lotfi Abdelli, was prevented from performing his comedy act “100% Halal” by an occupation of the auditorium.

Salafist organisations were prevented from participating in last year’s October election. However a Salafist party, the Jabhat al-Islah (Islamic Reform Front ), was officially recognised in May. It is campaigning for the introduction of Sharia law.

The leading party in the government is a less-extreme Islamist party, Ennahda.

“The [aim of the] Salafis try to push us,” say Rachid al-Ghannouchi, founder of Ennahda,

Obligingly Ennahda has drafted a law, yet to be debated in parliament, which could see anyone convicted of violating religious values jailed for up to two years.