A music and theatre festival violates “Muslim sensitivities.” Attacking attendees with swords and sticks doesn’t.
Sharia Alert from “Arab Spring” Tunisia: “Salafists attack Tunisia festival, 5 wounded,” from AFP, August 17 (thanks to Benedict):
Hardline Islamists armed with swords and sticks attacked a cultural festival in northern Tunisia late on Thursday, with five people wounded in the clash, witnesses and officials said.
It was the third time in just three days that Tunisia’s emboldened Salafists have disrupted cultural events, condemning some of them for violating Muslim sensitivities during the holy month of Ramadan and fuelling 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,” the interior ministry said.
The ministry said it had dispersed the assailants with tear gas and arrested four of them, adding that five people were wounded.
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 Lebanon’s powerful Shiite group 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 mounting concern among artists and activists in Tunisia about the ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim movement, which has grown increasingly assertive since the ouster of veteran dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in last year’s uprising.
Two festivals have been cancelled this month and two cultural performances prevented from taking place just this week because of threats by the Salafists, who considered them un-Islamic.
Opposition and civil society groups have repeatedly criticized Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that heads Tunisia’s ruling coalition, for failing to do more to rein in the hardliners.