The head of a private Tunisian TV channel apologized Tuesday for airing part of a film judged blasphemous by Muslims, after Islamists launched an attack on the network’s offices in protest.
“I apologize,” Nessma TV president Nebil Karoui said on Monastir radio about Friday’s broadcast of “Persepolis”, a globally-acclaimed film on Iran’s 1979 revolution.
The offending scene of the animated film concerns an old, bearded image of God, of whom all depictions are forbidden by Islam.
“I am sorry for all the people who were disturbed by this sequence, which also shocked me,” said Karoui.
“I believe that to have broadcast this sequence was a mistake. We never had the intention of attacking sacred values.”
Tunisian police Sunday broke up a mob of angry Salafists intent on attacking Nessma offices, raising fears of unrest with historic polls only two weeks away and re-launching the sensitive debate on Tunisia’s Arab-Muslim identity.
In the latest attack by conservative Muslims against secularism in post-revolution Tunisia, a 200-strong crowd targeted Nessma for airing “Persepolis” but was broken up before they reached the TV building.
The French-Iranian film is based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical and eponymous graphic novel, describing the last days of the US-backed shah’s regime and the subsequent revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Salafists ─ whose Tahrir party has not been legalized ─ are one of the most conservative and radical currents in political Islam.
In June, six Salafists were arrested in Tunis after they stormed a cinema and broke its glass doors in a bid to stop the screening of the film “Neither Allah nor Master” on secularism in Tunisia.
Having apologized, Karoui nevertheless said he “never imagined that this would elicit such an outcry.”
“This film has already been shown in its entirety in several cinemas in Tunisia and never elicited such agitation,” he said.