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Tear gas fired as mob protests TV station cartoon image of Allah

Crowds protesting a TV station’s broadcast of a cartoon of Allah were dispersed by tear gas Friday in Tunis, the capital of the African nation of Tunisia.

The crowds were brought out by Friday sermons in mosques across the capital accusing the station of blasphemy for airing a film that briefly portrays Allah as a bearded old man.

“The demonstrators, mainly conservative Muslim Salafists, protested against Nessma television for the second time in a week,” reported Lebanon’s Naharnet news site.

Tunisian citizens vote next week for a new constitutional assembly, their first time at the polls since President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali was deposed by street protests that prompted similar popular uprisings throughout the Arab world.

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“Correspondents say that with the autocratic government of Ben Ali gone, more conservative Muslims are making themselves heard,” reported BBC.  “The protesters — mainly conservative Muslim Salafists — were angered by fantasy scenes in the film, Persepolis.”

In the documentary about the 1979 Iranian revolution, a cartoon Allah is shown talking to a young girl. All but the most liberal Muslims believe the Koran forbids any image of the Prophet Mohammed or Allah.

“The head of Nessma TV, Nebil Karoui, apologized for broadcasting the film, but many mosque preachers devoted their Friday sermons to the issue,” reported the BBC. “The protest started peacefully at a central Tunis mosque after Friday prayers, with hundreds of people shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is greatest’ and demanding the imposition of Islamic law in Tunisia.

Riot police fired tear gas and moved in with their batons to try to disperse the crowd. The protesters responded by throwing stones at police.

Witnesses told the British news service Reuters there were other protests by Islamists in several locations around the capital.

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