In Al-Azhar, an impromptu speaker on the glories of political Islam vies with another who attracts security officials by talking about Egypt’s current oppressive government “” a common refrain of members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both show that political Islam is alive and well in Egypt: “We are all Salaah-Ud-Deen [Saladin]!” From MPACUK, with thanks to Ali Dashti:
CAIRO, Egypt – The turbaned sheikh had finished his sermon, but others were just getting started. As he walked from the prayer hall, other speakers stepped in looking for an audience among the thousands of worshippers still crowded into the Al-Azhar Masjid.
But the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar Masjid, which is also one of the first universities in the world, is no sanctuary of free speech.
Helmeted riot police ringed the Masjid, while inside was the more subtle presence of plainclothes state security officers, who hung back until needed….
As most worshippers filed out, a few hundred stuck around to debate. Inside the Masjid’s main hall, men shouted and pushed as two speakers tried to outshout each other.
One man stood with arms folded, telling of Salaah-Ud-Deen, the Islamic hero who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187. The other tried to interrupt him with a more modern tale: of Egyptians’ struggle for freedom under what he called an oppressive government. Scores of listeners surrounded them.
“We need to speak about political work in Egypt,” shouted Nagy Said, an accountant, sweat pouring off his face. “Al-Azhar doesn’t reflect the pulse of the nation.”
A listener objected, saying politics had no place at the Masjid.
Suddenly, the security agents materialized from the crowd, checking IDs and questioning the people crowded around the political speaker. They were less interested in the man talking about the ancient Islamic victories.
His listeners remained as the others filed out.
“Grace be to Islam. Islam is coming,” called a voice from the crowd. “We are all Salaah-Ud-Deen!.”