Radical Muslims burst into a Tunisian school on Wednesday and assaulted its chief after he barred entry to a teenage girl wearing a face veil, or niqab, teachers said, an incident that underlined rising Islamist-secularist tensions.
Since secular dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled in the first "Arab Spring" uprising two years ago, Tunisia has seen mounting strife between secularists who long held power and Islamists whose influence is increasing.Moderate Ennahda Islamists who won a free election now head the Tunis government. But hardline Salafists are pushing for Islam to be made the law of the land, raising secularist fears for a loss of individual freedoms, women's rights and democracy.
Murad Ben Hamouda of the teachers' union at Manzel Bouzelfa secondary school said Salafists stormed into the compound, smashed a few cars and "tried to kill the director for refusing the entry of a schoolgirl dressed in niqab into the classroom".
School superintendent Abdelwahed Sentati was beaten with sticks and stones, suffering several broken bones, Hamouda said, and the assailants then fled. There have been no arrests, and interior ministry police had no immediate comment.