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Desecration of Quran, mosques shocks Tunisia
Salafists holding posters showing Osama bin Laden during a rally to condemn the disposal last week of a number of Qurans at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, near the U.S. embassy in Tunis, Tunisia. An emerging movement of believers known as Salafis has seemingly appeared out of thin air _ and prompted fears of a culture war in this North African country of 10 million. Since the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011 unleashed a string of Arab uprisings, Islam has blossomed in Tunisia in a way it wasn't allowed to do for half a century. AP Photo/Amine Landoulsi.
TUNIS (AP).- Tunisia's government on Monday condemned the desecration of the Muslim holy book and attacks on mosques as attempts to sow discord in society.

On Thursday in the town of Ben Guerdane near the Libyan border, two mosques were vandalized and Qurans inside damaged. On Friday a Star of David, a symbol of Judaism, was spray painted on the al-Fath mosque in the capital, Tunis.

There has been no word on the identity of the perpetrators of the attacks, but they came at a time of heightened tensions between religious and secular elements in society.

Since the country's secular dictator was overthrown a year ago in a popular uprising, there has been a rise in religious sentiment, with high-profile demonstrations by ultraconservative Muslims known as Salafis calling for greater piety in society.

The Salafis have often clashed, sometimes violently, with secular and left wing groups, and the fear is that the latest attacks were part of this conflict.

However, all groups, including the left-wing opposition Progressive Democratic Party, have condemned the incidents.

On Monday, the Ministry of Religious Affairs urged security forces to find out who was involved in the latest attacks and declared March 23 to be the national day of the Quran.

Adnan Mancer, the presidential spokesman, stated his "concern and consternation over the repeated violations of the sacred as well as symbols of national unity."

Tunisia's 10 million people are overwhelmingly Muslim. There are also 1,500 Jews and a small number of Christians.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.



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