Hard to believe this is the same country that was the most secular nation in the Arab world just over one year ago.

(AFP) — Protesters have damaged several works of art at an exhibition in Tunisia, in what appears to have been the latest in a series of attacks by Islamic religious hardliners on liberal or secular targets.

A group of men broke into the venue in the northern suburbs of Tunis overnight Sunday-Monday, slashing several canvases and dismantling one art installation, said the show’s director Luca Luccatini.

Earlier Sunday, several men believed to be ultra-conservative Salafist Muslims had turned up presenting themselves as a lawyer and bailiffs and demanding that four works judged “offensive to sacred values” be taken down, he said.

“We called the police because their behavior was aggressive and they threatened to come back,” said Luccatini.

Supporters of the art exhibition later faced off with a group of bearded men dressed in the style of Salafists outside the gallery, which was broken into after it had closed for the day.

As well as the paintings that were destroyed, one installation, called “The Ring” — which showed the faces of Tunisian women, Jewish and Christian, painted on punching balls — was dismantled and removed, Luccatini told AFP.

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