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Police fire tear gas at protesters

Tunisian police have used tear gas to disperse thousands of people in Tunis who were protesting against the airing of an animated film that Islamists have called blasphemous.

Worshippers poured out of al-Fatah mosque in Tunis and began protesting after the imam preached against the film Persepolis, calling it a "serious attack on the religious beliefs of Muslims".

Police stopped the marchers with tear gas as they headed towards the private Nessma TV station, which had aired the film.

Marjane Satrapi's award-winning adaptation of her graphic novels about growing up during Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution contains a scene showing a character representing God. Depictions of God are considered sacrilege in Islam.

The film won the jury prize at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.

The preacher in Tunis questioned the timing of the broadcast by Nessma TV. Tunisia will hold a landmark election on October 23 for a constitutional body that will determine the future of the nation after its long-time dictator was overthrown in January.

Station chief Nabil Karoui has since apologised for airing the film earlier this week, calling it a "mistake".

Attacks against perceived symbols of secularism by hardcore Muslims have increased in recent weeks. Once suppressed by the former regime, conservative Muslims are increasingly making themselves heard in the country's politics.

Since the government was overthrown, Tunisia has seen unrest and demonstrations as well as the rise of a new ultraconservative group of Muslims that had kept a low profile under the largely secular regime of former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The front-runner in the election is expected to be the Ennahda Party, a moderate Islamist movement that had been severely repressed under the previous regime.


From Belfast Telegraph