Friday, 10 June 2011

After The Revolution Islamic Takeover of Moderate Egypt Imminent

Conservative Islam was kept at bay by moderate autocrats in Egypt for over 50 years or more. Now things are changing and not for the good either. Those ultra-orthodox violent people who were kept at the fringe of Egyptian society and seen as pariah are coming back with a vengeance.

The first few examples of these have already started emerging, these organisations have started imposing their brand of strict Islam on young couples seen out in the open.

“There is going to be a battle between two visions for Egypt,” said Abdel Moneim El-Shahat, a leader in Egypt’s fundamentalist Salafist movement, whose members spent long years in jail under President Hosni Mubarak.There are many groups but the two most prominent are the Muslim brotherhood and The Salafist

Salafists movement is based on the believe that Islam should be imposed in its pure form and they reject any new ideas or changes to it. Their members grow long beard, shun alcohol and believe in keeping their women on a leash fully covered and inside their homes. Until now this movement though quite strong in the society was not a strong political force like the Muslim Brotherhood but now they are entering into the political arena too as their leaders are busy forming new political parties. they are using all modern weapons like the internet and social media to quickly become a potent political alliance.

Abdallah al-Ashaal, a former Egyptian diplomat who is running for president as a liberal, said the Salafists will be able to rally a large base of supporters at the polls.“They vote according to orders, not to convictions,” he said.

Abboud El-Zomor, who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for his part in the assassination of the ex-president Anwar Sadat, had had his sentence extended by five years under the emergency law imposed after the 1981 shooting was released recently.

The old sheikh, whose release was met with great attention from the Egyptian media, does not seem to regret the assassination of Sadat and think that it is a justifiable, yet unrepeatable action. This among, other things, has provoked renewed fear and suspicion towards the role of Islamist groups in Egypt, from the conservative Salafis to the politicized Muslim Brotherhood.

“They don’t want Christians in Egypt. They want an Islamic state,” said a woman who gave her name as Mona at a Christian protest Monday against the weekend violence. Next to her, a woman in a Muslim hijab who held a wooden cross joined the protest in solidarity as chants against Salafis filled the air. “We are afraid for what will happen to us in the future when people like that are allowed to attack us and to be part of the new government,” says Mona, holding an image of Jesus aloft.

What ended in fighting that killed 12 people in the Cairo district of Imbaba started Saturday when a group of Salafis gathered at St. Mina church, claiming that the church was holding a woman who had converted from Christianity to Islam, and demanding the church release her. Such claims of conversion and kidnapping have been a flash point for sectarian tension, with Salafis in particular seizing on them in the past year.

At a convention after Friday prayers thousands of men sat cross-legged on the floor as senior Salafist clerics spread the word about their desire for an Islamic government.With no opinion polls in Egypt it is impossible to gauge the strength of the Salafists movement. Some say their percentage support is in single figures, but others are convinced they now constitute a major political force in Egyptian society.Some say these groups together may pull up-to 50% votes

"The Salafist movement is very big in Egypt," said the editor of Cairo's Democracy Review, Hala Mustafa, who recently devoted an issue of her journal to the Salafists. "The number of its members exceeds the members of the Muslim Brotherhood".

In recent days the Salafists have been accused in rural parts of Egypt of cutting off the ear of an alleged pimp, attacking an alcohol shop and smashing up some Sufi shrines on the grounds that they represent a overly superstitious approach to religion and are unislamic.

"Suddenly they have become more violent," said Hala Mustafa. "They try to turn Egypt to an Islamic state because they think there is a vacuum."

With parliamentary elections scheduled for this fall, the Salafists are poised to emerge as a powerful political force in the contest, which could become an unofficial referendum on how piously the Arab world’s largest nation should be governed in the post-revolutionary era.

There is no overarching Salafi institution, but Salafism has long had links to the Saudi government, which devotes significant funding to disseminating the movement’s beliefs, particularly those of the ultraconservative Saudi version, known as Wahhabism after the 18th century figure Mohammed ibn Abd Al Wahhab.

According to The Washington Post, the Saudi government spent as much as $8 million a year in the 1980s spreading Salafism, mostly Wahhabism, in the United States. The 2006 article mentioned a poll showing that 8 percent of US Muslims identified themselves as "favoring a Salafi approach."

At a Salafist protest in support of Osama bin Laden Friday, a young Egyptian named Ahmed who described himself as a liberal Muslim stood watching as several hundred people chanted against the US and held signs that said, “We are all bin Laden.”

Mona Makram Obeid, who once taught political science at the American University in Cairo, believes the mainstream has been galvanised by the Salafists' sudden emergence. "The Salafists have been brought out from their caves," she said. "Everyone is frightened. There is a lot of fear in society and a lot of concern."

Egypt’s revolution was not led by Islamists, and was characterized by a remarkable show of unity and solidarity between Egyptians of different backgrounds. But some Christians, who have long lived with discrimination and injustice, worry that the limited freedoms they have now will be further marginalized by the majority Muslim population.

"We as Christians are worse off after the revolution," said Mina Magdy, a young Christian. "Look at what's happening to us. Mubarak was bad, but now it's worse. The Army isn't doing anything to protect us."