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Tunisian elections set to empower Islamists. How moderate will they be?

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Mr. Karoui’s public apology over the airing of Persepolis – he said he wasn’t aware of the scene – has not succeeded in calming the salafists’ anger.

“They have attacked God and the Tunisian people," said student Younes Omar during the demonstration. "Nessma TV should be shut down.”

Mr. Omar is convinced that the airing of Persepolis was part of a plot by the West to anger Muslims and show them in a bad light. “They’re hoping that violent Islamic demonstrations will make people think twice about voting for Nahda,” he said. (Nessma TV is partly owned by Mediaset, the media company belonging to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.)

Deep suspicion over radical Islam

At the other side of the spectrum there is deep suspicion over the role that Nahda has played in demonstrations by radical Islamic militants.

“The salafists are nothing more than puppets in the hands of the Nahda party, and Rached Ghannouchi is the conductor,” said Salwa Ben Sbaa during the secularists' Oct. 16 demonstration.

The Nessma TV episode was only the latest in a string of protests by Islamic radicals.

In February, salafists attacked Tunis’ red light district. (Tunisia is the only country in the Arab world where prostitution is legal and prostitutes get monthly health checks by government doctors.)

On June 26, Islamists attacked a movie theater in Tunis to protest the showing of the movie ‘Ni Allah Ni Maitre’ (Neither God nor Master) by French-Tunisian director Nadia El Fani. The movie explores secularism in Tunisia; it’s title has since been changed to ‘Laïcité Inch’allah’ (Secularism, if God wishes.)

In the coastal city of Sousse, protesters stormed the literature department of the university earlier this month after a female student was denied admittance because she refused to take off her niqab, a face-covering veil.

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