“There are also many Islamists here,” said Hassan el-Bey, a handsome 27-year-old local strongman with a scar down his face who says he makes a living shaking down drug dealers.
And it’s the Islamists, not the criminals, who attract the police attention, he said….
Along the small alleyways, pop music blares from shops selling clothes or juice, competing with the sound of Quran readings and preaching from stalls selling religious books.
Head scarves are a must, even for women in jeans. The more religious wear the “niqab,” a veil covering the entire face except for the eyes.
Sitting on a low stool in front of her tiny candy shop, one 35-year old woman wearing glasses over her niqab agreed to talk to a reporter, but refused to give her name.
She said the Cairo attacks were not the works of Islamists. “Anything that goes wrong is usually blamed on the Sunnis,” she said, using the vernacular here for conservative Muslims.
“Many people would wear the niqab and do things and hide behind it. I am doing it for God and I don’t care what people say,” she said.
One street away lived 18-year-old Hassan Bashandi, who blew himself up in the middle of a Cairo bazaar on April 7, killing three tourists. An undercover security man now occupies his house and neighbors refuse to talk.
Refaat Abdel Hadi, a plumber in his 50s, said Islamists don’t mingle with the rest of Shubra el-Kheima’s population. “A passing by Sunni will not salute me, only another Sunni like himself.”
Every corner in this maze of low brick buildings appears to be occupied by a small mosque. Drug dealers or thugs are also invariably present, staking out their turf.
El-Bey has made himself a local celebrity, forcing out dealers he doesn’t like or who won’t pay up, while insisting he does not sell drugs himself. Two young men standing on the street corner greet him warmly.
Yet even this slum dweller who has mastered the rough rules of the street rejects violence in the name of Islam. “To think of destructive things like that (bombing) is no joke,” he said. “This is death.”
The idea that a “slum dweller who has mastered the rough rules of the street” is more likely than someone else to accept violence in the name of Islam is a clear manifestation of a near-total incomprehension about what the jihad terrorists are doing and why.
The government blames events in Iraq for Egypt’s latest round of attacks, suggesting the suspects were inspired by Iraqi insurgents.
Wanted posters of Mohammed Yousri Yassin, the brother of a man who threw himself off a bridge holding a bomb that exploded in downtown Cairo on April 30, are plastered along subway stations on the way to Shubra el-Kheima.
Two women “” reportedly the sister and fiancee of slain bomber Ehab Yousri Yassin “” opened fire on a tourist bus shortly after his death before fatally shooting themselves, police said. No one on the bus was wounded but seven people were hurt in the bridge attack.
But in defense of their hometown, most Shubra el-Kheima residents refuse to call the attackers “terrorists.”
Which is one indication why we need something much more specific than a march against “terror.”
“This is not terrorism or the like. People have just had it,” said Moustafa Abou Dahab, a 40-year old resident who bounces between jobs and currently records music tapes. “I would blow myself up if I can’t feed my kids.”