Tunisia's religious affairs minister Nourredine al-Khademi
An upsurge in violence in Tunisia involving Islamist radicals has been engineered by supporters of deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country's religious affairs minister Nourredine al-Khademi, pictured in March 2012, said on Wednesday. © Fethi Belaid - AFP
Tunisia's religious affairs minister Nourredine al-Khademi
AFP
Last updated: August 8, 2012

Ex-regime supporters behind Tunisia violence

An upsurge in violence in Tunisia involving Islamist radicals has been engineered by supporters of deposed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the country's religious affairs minister said on Wednesday.

"Elements belonging to the former ruling party, known for their hatred of Islam, or with criminal records, were behind the latest incidents," Nourredine al-Khademi said, quoted by the official TAP news agency, without explaining how.

He called for "preserving the neutrality of mosques, which must remain places of worship open to all believers regardless of the political affiliations."

Numerous acts of violence in recent months have been linked to hardline Islamists, or Salafists, who have grown more confident since the mass uprising that toppled Ben Ali in January last year.

On Sunday, a founding member of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that won last year's parliamentary elections, was attacked and injured by a radical Islamist at a conference on religion and tolerance.

In mid-June, Islamist radicals went on the rampage after taking issue with art works at a Tunis exhibition they considered offensive to Islam.

Ennahda has struggled to clarify its line on the Salafists, with recent violence sparking criticism that it has done too little to stop them.

Khademi said in March that about 400 of Tunisia's more than 5,000 mosques had fallen under the sway of the ultra-conservative Muslims, and that it was a priority of his ministry to promote more peaceful, tolerant strands of Islam.

© AFP 2012

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