Last Updated: Tue Aug 07, 2012 19:45 pm (KSA) 16:45 pm (GMT)

Tunisian fast break in Ramadan sparks unholy brawl

Muslim men rest in the shade at Zitouna mosque during Ramadan in Tunisia on Friday. A scuffle broke out after members of one group broke their fast earlier than usual in northern Tunisia on Tuesday.  (Reuters)
Muslim men rest in the shade at Zitouna mosque during Ramadan in Tunisia on Friday. A scuffle broke out after members of one group broke their fast earlier than usual in northern Tunisia on Tuesday. (Reuters)

An unholy brawl between rival hardline Islamists, some wielding knives, broke out in a Tunisian mosque, after hungry members of one group broke their fast a few minutes early, state media reported on Tuesday.

The bust-up occurred on Monday when followers of a certain Salafist scholar began to eat within the precincts of the Hidaya mosque in Beja, northern Tunisia, shortly before the evening call to prayer, which signals the end of the daily Ramadan fast, the TAP news agency reported.

That stirred the wrath of a group of “jihadists” worshipping at the same mosque, who accused their co-religionists of heresy, and the argument degenerated into a fight involving knives and tear gas, according to witnesses cited by TAP.

Fighting between rival Salafist groups is uncommon in Tunisia, with the ultra-conservative Muslims more often clashing with secularists, or Islamists deemed too liberal.

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.

He had been defending Youssef Seddik, an intellectual reviled by hardline Islamists.

Tunisia’s Salafists have grown more confident post-revolution – some of them going on the rampage in mid-June after taking issue with art works at a Tunis exhibition they considered offensive to Islam.

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