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Will Egypt become the next Pakistan?

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by Sherif Meleka
Special to Beliefnet

Sherif Meleka

A few days ago, I was watching a popular Egyptian talk show, Fil Midan, or “In the Square.” It had a very interesting guest, a leader of a salafi Islamic political faction. He maintained a pleasantly tranquil smile and a relaxed appearance throughout the program, wearing his typically Pakistani outerwear and hat.

The host, Amr Al-Leithy, was pretending to be eager to corner him, asking tough questions, but it was obvious to me as time went on, that he was not serious about laying a glove on him. It was pretentious.

The host constantly maintained a neutral grin to all kinds of extreme responses from his revered guest. Even though I had not seen this “leader” before, I found out as the interview continued that he was a prominent Islamic figure, with his own show on a satellite TV channel; Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Masry, a.k.a. Abou ‘Ammar, who formerly served as an imam in Saudia Arabia and other Gulf states mosques, and participated in an official series of sermons at the Islamic Center in Brooklyn, NY during the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Masry was saying truly horrific things. For instance, he said that the 9/11 attacks turned out to be a blessing in disguise because they drew the attention of hundreds of thousands of Americans toward Islam. When some actually approached him for answers regarding this Muslim aggression, he introduced them to Islam’s holy commands, which led to scores of conversions. Of course, he never mentioned the countless funds that were spent to convert those mostly inner city folk, and those in confinement, nor did he disclose their source. When it came time to discuss non-Muslims, he used the usual line that real Muslims carry no animosities towards non-Muslims, in Egypt or abroad. After being confronted by the show’s host about the repeated attacks, burnings and destruction of Coptic Churches, he reluctantly admitted that there are – of course – exceptions in every group but that actions of a few should not blemish the majority.

The Sheikh then proceeded to discuss tourism. He softly said that Egypt should enforce a strict dress code for everyone, Egyptians and foreign tourists alike, and prohibit all religiously forbidden actions, like drinking alcohol. There were two reasons why he believes these measures must be taken. First, based on his interpretation of Shari ‘a, a Muslim is forbidden from attending to someone inappropriately attired, or from serving the banned alcoholic drinks. Second, he believed that foreigners would be enticed by this modest behavior, to ask questions about the cause behind those restrictions, and thus be introduced to Islam. He jovially affirmed that stricter laws will lead to more converts to the rightful religion. The host was left speechless, obviously in admiration and not discontent. Coincidentally, the day after this program, a large statue of Pharaoh Sesostris I (Senusret III), standing in the middle of a square in the Delta city of al-Mansoura, was toppled overnight. The Supreme Council of Antiquities accused salafis of knocking down the statue, but the Daqahlia governor said erosion and wind were responsible. He added that the statue was a replica anyway so it was not really significant.

Alarmingly though, this rapid trend towards Islamization of the society is sweeping Egypt without any hint of a substantial opposition. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), who have been ruling the country ever since the fall of President Mubarak on February 11, 2011, has freed prominent Islamist figures from jail and even allowed exiled extremists to return to the country. SCAF appointed a committee to change the Egyptian Constitution headed by an overtly Islamist thinker Judge Tariq el-Bishri, and a leading Muslim Brotherhood (MB) figure (Sobhi Saleh, Lawyer and MB leader). SCAF authorized a popular referendum on the new temporary constitution opposed by revolutionary and secular forces. SCAF never blinked at the MB’s or salafis’ overt propaganda that voting “Yes” on the referendum was the Islamic way and voting “No” was thus non-Islamic .

When the government appointed a Christian governor in Qena, located in Upper Egypt, the Islamists refused. They sabotaged the railroad tracks and blocked the highways to the province for two weeks. SCAF did nothing and the governor never took office. Even while the current constitution forbids the formation of political parties based on religious indoctrination (see article 4), there exists today more than a dozen Islamic parties, and thousands of candidates ready to take on parliamentary elections due to start this month. Muslim leaders announced that they expect the Muslim Brotherhood to win 50% of the seats with an additional 30% of the parliamentary seats going to a coalition of other Islamic parties. They added that an Islamic constitution would eventually follow.

With the multiple incidents of assaults on churches openly carried out by Islamists, SCAF timidly pleaded with the Islamists to end their aggression, even brought their own religious leaders to appease them, and on only one occasion had to rebuild a church de nouveau. Yet, no one was ever tried or punished for this reprehensible conduct. Christians are being killed all over Egypt at an alarming frequency since the revolution. There has not been one investigation carried out that led to the incrimination of any of the salafis who have openly bragged about their aggression in footage available online. After the latest massacre of Christians in front of the Maspero building, where more that 27 were killed and 250 injured, SCAF is investigating the military’s involvement while vehemently denying any wrongdoing. Video shows the military taking part in this massacre, using armored vehicles to crush Christians.

In today’s Egypt, liberal, secular and Christian political forces are being treated with fists – recall the imprisonment of some twelve thousand protesters after very short trials. Islamist leaders are being caressed with a soft hand despite their documented violence evidenced by the destruction of church buildings and killing of Christians.

The temporary government either fears igniting the extremists’ animosity, or simply endorses their behavior but is too cautious to openly support it. SCAF makes sure to announce after each violent incident that they support democratic change and favor the transition of Egypt into a secular state. However, their actions do not support their declared intentions, which may imply that they are wary of the reaction of the less senior ranks within the armed forces themselves, or the openly declared Islamic political and popular forces in Egyptian society.

In any case, it’s only a matter of time until we find out whether the January 25th, 2011 Revolution will bring about a new Egypt that looks more like Pakistan, with an unbreakable alliance between the army and the Islamists in defiance of democratic and progressive values. Or will Egypt be like Turkey, where the Islamists are watched over by the army (or were at least until recently), and there is a fairly democratic political system. We hope that Egypt will be like Spain, where the removal of an army dictator engendered a truly secular and progressive democracy, even for a people with a strong religious background.



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dave Martin

    There was a time when the mainstream news outlets in the US would have been all over the deteriorating situation in Egypt. However, todays American media with it’s prefabricated narrative of what is happening in the world has no use for such reporting which obviously not only doesn’t fit but also displaces their storyline. As far as we’re concerned in the US, continually exposing and unmasking the propaganda that passes for current event reporting, must be given our highest priority.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment robert

    while i am not in favour of theocracies, secularism leads to socialism and, ultimately, tyranny by the ‘tolerant’.

    secular governments inevitably also become undemocratic as the elite – political class – assign to themselves freedoms and powers limited to the general populace. corruption becomes rampant.

    look at washington, DC

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment carolyn/jim

    I pray that all Americans emails all U.S.A. leaders and ask that all U.S.A. tax money not be sent too muslims nation for any reasons…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment NARANDEI HANIF

    The leaders of the great and mighty USA should all go back to school and study the text “The story of liberty ” by Charles Coffin. The biggest mistake this great nation made was to separate church from state.Christians have grown too complacent and have allowed nonbelievers to prey upon their kindness and mercy to the extent that now they want to control how we must live. Yet, GOD ALMIGHTY is still in control.

  • http://Http//www.archielea@westnet.com.au Archie Lea

    Flood Egypt with The WORD of God in Jesus Christ Name.amen

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Laurie

    The end times are at hand, If they hated Jesus, they will hate you. Pray, constantly Lord Jesus, come quickly! and for the Peace of Israel. He will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel. I we are to be judged as a nation we need to get on our knees and pray. America, freedom of religion, Christianity should be irresistably drawing, instead fear and anger are trumping love and God. Islamic muslim hatred and violence toward Christians and Jews is a set-up for the anti-christ. Put on your armor and fight the spiritual battle here and now.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment FCHH.

    More & More the evidence of “The Last Days” become a living reality of our world. NO matter your faith, your country,position or status one can ONLY LIVE, TELL & BE the LIGHT of the ONE, TRUE Living God.
    Take comfort, for HE will have the FINAL say.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment breeze

    Jesus is coming back, and ALL knees will bow, and claim Him Lord. There actions will not go unpunished.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Miles

    …this is really unfortunate…having lived in Cairo for 3 years prior to the Arab Spring where there was tolerance of all kinds of religions, i fear the worst may happen…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jacqueline

    The leadership of Egypt would stop the violence of and against the people of Egypt if that agreed with their agenda. That is not their aim. They want Islamic Sharia Law in place to rule and guide the country. Christians, particularly, are considered the infidel. This cruel and biased thinking is what must be changed by those on the outside of this country of Egypt in dealings with them. A rational, supportive, tolerant and understanding character is needed amongst the leadership of Egypt and the only way to achieve that is to outwit, out-debate, out-explain truth to these individual people who currently hold power in Egypt and to the Egyptian people themselves. Peace and its cooperation will soon follow after this is achieved. But, it will take people in the right positions and with the ability to do so, from the outside of Egypt, to bring about this change.

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