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Arab Israeli Salafists Take Aim At Sport And Culture

When Hanin Radi tried to make her dream come true of staging a marathon in her hometown, the Arab Israeli received death threats from radical Islamists.

“I’ve run marathons everywhere, but in the streets of my town I’m afraid to run,” said Radi, who is from the Arab town of Tirah in central Israel.

The 36-year-old mother of four is among those who have stirred the wrath of Salafist Islamists increasingly asserting themselves among Israel’s Arab population.

Citing their strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, Salafists have taken their campaign to cultural institutions and local governments, opposing anything they view as immoral.

In the case of Radi, who has finished third in the Tel Aviv marathon, her running in public in exercise gear violates the Salafists’ rigid ideas about women and modesty.

She trains three times a week with about 50 other women in Tirah, but they can only run after nightfall in a closed stadium, empty of men.

“Last year we had everything organised for a marathon. We had announced a date and distributed posters,” Radi, who is herself Muslim, told AFP.

“But when I went with the girls to run the course we’d laid out, we encountered the bearded (religious) men, who insulted us. Then the religious began to stir up the people against us.”That same evening, she said, she received death threats and abuse over the phone.In the middle of the night, “shots were fired at my house and my car.”

Israeli police questioned a Muslim cleric suspected of inciting violence against the would-be runners, she said. “But the case was closed without anyone being arrested.”

Israeli police spokeswoman Luba Samri said comments on social media, including Facebook, are in general “referred to the attorney general, who has the right to study them”.

She dismissed allegations that police are less stringent in addressing concerns among the Arab population than those involving Jews.

“We investigate (accusations) thoroughly, with each case measured according to its merits and circumstances,” she said.

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