TUNISIA: Radical Salafists shut down last bar and several cultural events, charging they are “un-Islamic”

Tunisia’s western city of Sidi Bouzid is now dry. The last remaining bar was forced to close earlier this week after it was ransacked by a mob of religious extremists.

Observers.france24  Although the establishment had long been targeted by threats, its owner chose to keep his doors open, believing the local authorities’ promises to protect his business.

Chanting “al-Charab haram” (“alcohol is sin”), dozens of Salafists burst into Sidi Bouzid’s Horchani hotel. The throng of men quickly homed in on the hotel’s liquor stock, seizing bottles of alcohol and throwing them against the walls or smashing them on the floor.

 The incident comes around four months after the city’s Salafist community first launched a war against alcohol consumption, pressuring or intimidating several bars into shutting down. Those who tried to resist saw their businesses come under attack, much like the Horchani hotel. Local authorities have shown reluctance to officially condemn the acts. 

Observers.france24  Within the space of ten days, radical Islamists have shut down three different cultural events in Tunisia. The event organisers have been highly critical of the police’s passive attitude toward the increasingly violent Salafists.

Tunisia’s hardline Islamists have grown in prominence since the revolution that toppled former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali last year. On Thursday, extremists violently attacked the organisers of a cultural event at the youth centre in Bizerte, in northwestern Tunisia. They were angered by the presence of Samir Kantar, a member of the Palestinian Liberation Front, who was taking part in the event. The Salafists accused Kantar of being a member of Lebanon’s Shia militant group, Hezbollah.

tide of Salafist militancy in Tunisia is threatening freedom of expression and undermining the country’s democratic transition. Violent protests by radical Islamists (below) are presenting the government with its “greatest political test yet, one with the potential for grave failure,” according to one account.