Saturday, August 18, 2012

Tunisian Salafis Targeting "Un-Islamic" Cultural Events Worrisome

Angry Tunisian Islamists

Tunisia is taking a quick dive into Islamist hell.  I'm not sure what was expected when the people voted overwhelmingly for an Islamist leadership, but they're certainly getting what they voted for. Perhaps some were foolishly duped into thinking that they could trust the so-called 'moderate' Islamist Ennahda party's vows of moderate Islam; but guess what, it 'aint happening. The ultra-conservative bearded Salafis are flexing their muscles and the Islamist-led government is doing nothing to stop them.

It starts slowly, with little things like cultural events. Salafis destroyed art they believed to be offensive at an art exhibit/fair in June. And they're back targeting the arts again. This time it was the "un-Islamic" Bizerte music and theatre festival that was attacked by a bunch of Salafis bearing arms which left five people wounded. Four men were arrested, but people there said it took a good hour before the police did anything about the melee, and that the government isn't doing anything to control the Salafis thuggish behavior. And the attacks on culture have increased to the point that some producers are cancelling events.

Last week, the director of a festival at Gboullat, in the northern Beja region, announced he was cancelling the event under pressure notably from the Salafi -- adherents of a strict Sunni interpretation of Islam similar to the one practiced in Saudi Arabia.

Another festival had been cancelled at the end of July, in Sejnane, with the organizers again blaming radical Islamists, who interrupted the event, saying it was unacceptable during the month of Ramadan.

But the Bizert festival isn't the only event that has been targeted recently, in fact there have been a spate of attacks since the violent confrontation in June that left many wounded and one dead.

It was the third and most violent such incident in just three days, after Salafi prevented an Iranian group from performing at a Sufi music festival in Kairouan, south of Tunis, saying their Shiite chanting amounted to a violation of Islamic values.

On Tuesday, renowned Tunisian actor Lotfi Abdelli was prevented from performing his comedy act “100% Halal” by hardline Islamists who had occupied the auditorium.

The fact that the Salafis are allowed to wreak havoc and yet anti-government protests are quickly dealt with has some believing that the Ennahda are involved.

“They leave the Salafi alone,” said Tunisian actress and playwright Leila Toubel.

“How can we believe that this government and Ennahda are not involved? I would like to think that there is nothing to it, but these people (the Salafi) go unpunished, they make their own law,” Toubel said.

She accused the ruling Islamists of “complicity at least by silence.”

And some online media sites, like Kapitalis, feel the same way.

“What is serious about all this, more than the activism of these religious extremists, which grows by the day, is the laxity of the authorities who give in every time when faced with the diktats of some bearded fanatics."

Although the ministry of culture weighed in on the cancelled Abdelli show by saying it was an “attack on freedom of expression and a dangerous threat to cultural rights,” it's doubtful anything will be done; after all, an Islamist is an Islamist, whether they claim to be moderate or not.

It starts with the cultural events, and then eventually it will creep into other areas of life, until it is too late to do anything about it.

No comments: