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Tunisian culture ministry condemns Salafist attack on free expression

The Tunisian Ministry of Culture condemns the stoppage of a theatrical performance in Salafist stronghold Menzel Bourguiba, saying it will prosecute the perpetrators

Ahram Online, Thursday 16 Aug 2012

The Tunisian Ministry of Culture has condemned the stoppage by a group affiliated with the Salafi current of a theatre performance starring Tunisian comedian Lutfi Abdali Tuesday night in Menzel Bourguiba in Banzart. The ministry said it initiated measures to prosecute those responsible for the incident.

The ministry said in a statement Wednesday, "A group of people affiliated with the Salafist current stormed the Tunisian Berm House of Culture in the city of Menzel Bourguiba and prevented a play by Lutfi Abdali programmed for Tuesday evening, 14 August 2012, and the Ministry of Culture condemns such actions, due to its clear implications for restricting freedom of expression and the serious targeting of cultural rights and an assault on state property."

According to Tunisian media outlets, the Salafist group blocked the performance claiming that the play provokes the feelings of people and violates the principles of Islamic law, especially as the performance coincides with Laylat Al-Qadr (a holy night in Ramadan, marking when the Quran was revealed).

The Tunisian Ministry of Culture expressed its support for and solidarity with the artists involved, and has raised the matter with the judiciary. Local media outlets have classified the town of Menzel Bourguiba as one of the strongholds of the Salafi movement in Tunisia.

The comedian Lutfi Abdali expressed his deep regret for "the deterioration of freedom of expression" in Tunisia due to threats of religious hard-liners to artists and creators.

In June, eight Tunisian states experienced acts of violence and sabotage led by Salafists in protest against artworks that the Salafists deemed "offensive to Islamic sanctity." 

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