Tunisia's Islamist party condemns attack on TV director

AFP , Saturday 15 Oct 2011

Ennadha Islamist Party condemned an armed assault by a 'salafist' group of on the director of Nessma private TV station

Tunisia's Islamist party Ennadha, tipped to dominate elections next week, on Saturday condemned an attack on the home of a TV station director over alleged blasphemy, denying any role in it.

"We condemn the violence. We have always advocated defending our ideas through peaceful and respectful debate," Ali Larayedh, a member of Ennadha's executive, told AFP, adding: "We have nothing whatsover to do with these acts of violence."

About 100 men described by witnesses as members of the ultra-conservative Salafist sect firebombed the home of Nessma private television chief Nabil Karoui late Friday in protest at the airing of a film that they say blasphemed Islam. He was not home and his family managed to escape.

Earlier, militants clashed with police in the streets of Tunis over the broadcast at a demonstration calling for the closure of the station.

The main demonstration began peacefully at a central Tunis mosque after Friday prayers, with men and women chanting slogans against Nessma. Thousands of people, many of them Salafists, were present.

The broadcast of "Persepolis" on October 7 sparked an escalating series of protests culminating in the attack on Karoui's home.

The protests have increased fears of unrest barely a week away from historic polls to elect a constituent assembly on October 23, the first since January's overthrow of president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.

"Persepolis", a globally acclaimed animated film on Iran's 1979 revolution, offended many Muslims because of a scene showing God as an old man with a beard. All depictions of God are forbidden by Islam.

Karoui apologised over the scene, but most mosque preachers devoted their Friday sermons to the issue. After the attack on his home, the station accused some imams of having incited the violence and charged that Ennahda, though nominally moderate, had tacitly encouraged it.

"We don't need to respond to those who have continually slandered us instead of judging us by our actions," Larayedh said. "We are loyal and determined to preserve the transition process. We are through with dictatorship, and we have other ways to make ourselves heard besides violence."

Larayedh said Ennahda had advised young supporters to avoid demonstrations "that could degenerate".

Short link: