Tunisians demonstrate against Islamist influence


More than 1,000 people took to the streets of the Tunisian capital yesterday to demonstrate against religious violence and what they say is the rise of radical Islam in the north African country.

The demonstration, which included secular political parties and human rights groups, came days after Islamists attacked a movie audience and smashed the doors of a cinema to protest against the film “No God, No Master” by Tunisian-French director Nadia El-Fani, an outspoken critic of political Islam.

Protesters carried banners reading “Free Tunisia, extremism out” and “Religious freedom, freedom of thought”.

Six months after an uprising toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, tension is rising between Islamists and liberals as Islamic purists increasingly try to assert their influence in what was once a citadel of Arab secularism.

Ennahda, Tunisia’s main Islamist party, was legalised after the revolution and, although still in its infancy, it is tipped as one of the favourites in the October election.

Its popularity unnerves the many Tunisians who want to keep religion separate from the state.

Prominent political figure Nejib Chebbi participated in the demonstration and said he supports freedom of expression without restrictions.
“We are here to say that difference does not justify resorting to violence”, he told Reuters.