Monday, April 4, 2011

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood calls for Saudi-style modesty police: Aspects of sharia

While we dream on about Islam ...

But one does have the freedom to be controlled to the hilt. Though not in a free society. Not here!

Officials of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's leading Islamic group, have called for the establishment of a Saudi-style modesty police to combat "immoral" behavior in public areas in what observers say in another sign of a growing Islamic self-confidence in the post-Mubarak era.

In the political sphere, the Brotherhood led a successful drive to get voters to approve a package of constitutional amendments. On the street level, at least 20 attacks were perpetrated against the tombs of Muslim mystics (suffis), who are the subject of popular veneration but disparaged by Islamic fundamentalists, or salafis. After some initial hesitation, Islamic leaders have publicly praised the revolution.

Issam Durbala, a member of the Brotherhood's Shura council, told the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Youm on Sunday, that he supported the establishment of a virtue police, or Hisbah, which had existed in medieval Islamic societies to oversee public virtue and modesty, mostly in the marketplace and other public gathering spaces.

But he seemed to stop short of advocating a force along then lines of that which operates in Saudi Arabia today under the auspices of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. It enforces a dress code, separation of sexes and the observances of prayer times.

"The new police must have a department with limited authorities to arrest those who commit immoral acts,” Durbala told the newspaper.

Nevertheless, liberal, secular Egyptians, who led the protests that brought down President Hosni Mubarak and ushered in a new but as yet undefined era in Egypt, regard the proposal as the latest sign that Islamists are emerging as the dominant force in the country.

Sa'id Abd Al-Azim, a leader of the salafi movement in Alexandria, attacked Egyptian "liberals" for waging a media campaign against his movement.

"Despite the attacks against the salafi movement, it is constantly advancing – untouched by the attack," Abd Al-Azim told Al-Masry Al-Youm. "If the Christians want safety they should submit to the rule of God and be confident that the Islamic sharia [law] will protect them."

But it was not only Islamic fundamentalists who foresaw a growing role for Islam in Egypt. In an editorial published in the New York Times April 1, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, the country's leading religious figure, condemned the attacks saying they harmed Islamic unity. But he said the world must expect a more Islamic, albeit tolerant, Egypt.

"Egypt is a deeply religious society," Gomaa wrote. "It is inevitable that Islam will have a place in our democratic political order … while religion cannot be completely separated from politics, we can ensure that it is not abused for political gain."

Last Tuesday, Egypt's foreign minister, Nabil Al-Arabi, said his country was interested in "opening a new page with all countries, including Iran," which he said was "not an enemy state." Egypt and Iran have not enjoyed full diplomatic relations since 1979, when Iran's Islamic revolution took place and Egypt signed a historic peace treaty with Israel and gave shelter to the ailing Shah of Iran. On Wednesday, Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi welcomed the Egyptian overture and said he hoped to witness an "expansion of ties" between the two countries.

Nagib Gibrail, a Coptic attorney and head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, said the Egyptian revolution had been kidnapped by Islamist radicals.

"There are areas in Egypt where Christian girls can't walk outside after eight o'clock in the evening for fear of being kidnapped," Gibrail told The Media Line. "Moderate Muslims should be more scared than Christians. It is very worrying that the military regime hasn't issued a statement declaring Egypt a secular state."

Maye Kassem of AUC said parliamentary elections should be postponed in order to allow smaller liberal opposition groups to properly organize. Parliamentary elections are to be held by September, with presidential elections following a month or two later, according to a timetable announced by the government last week.

"We need a longer transition period," Kassem said. "Otherwise, we will revert to a dictatorship which is not what we were fighting for."

In a four-page essay titled "The Tsunami of Change," American-Yemeni cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki, an Al-Qaeda propagandist, referred last week to the popular protest movements sweeping the Arab world.

"I wonder whether the West is aware of the upsurge of mujahedeen activity in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Algeria and Morocco?" Al-Awlaki wrote in the English language Al-Qaeda magazine Inspire. "The mujahedeen around the world are going through a moment of elation.”


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