Series of attacks against Tunisia shrines continues: Sufis accuse Wahhabis
TUNIS - Sufis said on Wednesday that another one of their shrines in Tunisia has been torched, pinning the blame on foreign-backed Salafist ultra-conservative Muslims.
In the 35th such attack in seven months, unidentified assailants on Tuesday night hurled Molotov cocktails at the Sidi Ahmed Uwerfelli shrine in Akuda, 140 kilometres (85 miles) south of Tunis.
"The people behind all the attacks are Wahhabis," a Salafist branch of Islam rooted in Saudi Arabia, Mazen Sherif, the deputy head of a Sufi union set up to counter the attacks, told a press conference in Tunis.
"This is just the beginning. They will go on to destroy the (Roman) sites in Carthage, El Jem and Duga. Then they will force men to grow beards and women to wear the hijab (full veil)," he said.
According to his union, which urged Tunisia's Islamist-led government to take effective action, such attacks are financed from abroad.
Since the early centuries of Islam, Sufi orders have always aroused suspicion among orthodox Muslims.
Several shrines dedicated to Muslim saints have been torched or looted in recent months in Tunisia, in acts blamed on hardline Salafists whose radical version of Sunni Islam does not tolerate saints or shrines.
Tunisian opposition and civil society groups blame the Ennahda party for showing complacency towards the Salafists.
Salafists, whose numbers in Tunisia are estimated at between 3,000 and 10,000 people, are accused of organising a series of violent attacks since the revolution ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali two years ago.
They are suspected of masterminding September 14 attacks on the US embassy in Tunis to protest against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States. Four assailants were killed in clashes with security forces.