Acts of hard-line vigilantism committed recently in Egypt are fuelling debate and concerns over the role Islamists could play after the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, who suppressed Islamist groups which he saw as a threat to his rule, analysts said.
Salafis were tolerated as a religious group under the former president as a counterweight his top foe, the Muslim Brotherhood group. But they appear to be playing a more political role in the country after the January 25 revolution.
That has alarmed many of the secular and liberal forces in Egypt because of the group’s extremist discourse and imposition of sharia (Islamic law.)
Reports of some acts of hard-line vigilantism, which lately dominated the news in Egypt, include an arson attack on the home of a woman deemed of “ill-repute,” and a punishment attack which involved a man’s ear being cut off.
According to police, one villager was killed and eight others were injured in Fayoum province after fighting broke out when Salafi followers ordered the owner of a liquor store to close. The Salafis have been trying to forcibly impose their strict interpretation of Islam by banning consumption of alcohol.
In the Upper Egypt town of Qalyoub, residents were angered when arsonists set fire to a shrine, widening the scope of a campaign that has echoes of Pakistan. Sunni hardliners have blown up shrines there.
Some people see acts of Islamist vigilantism as a warning sign about the hidden intentions of Salafis of ruling Egypt. […]
The head of al-Azhar, Egypt’s most prestigious seat of Islamic learning, has called for efforts to confront hard-line doctrine. “We’ll be up to our knees in blood,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb warned, as quoted by al-Shorouk newspaper.
The campaign against the shrines has drawn severe criticism from Egypt’s Mufti as well. In a Friday sermon, Sheikh Ali Jomaa accused the perpetrators of having a “misinterpretation” of Islam and “causing strife in society.”
Some accuse the media of exploiting a handful of cases to scare-mongering: playing on fears of Islamists suppressed by Mr. Mubarak to strengthen the case of conservatives seeking a return to the authoritarian ways of his regime.
“I don’t think Salafis have anything to do with the accidents that happened recently in southern Egypt, including the cutting off of a man’s ear. You know southerners are all conservative by nature and the story involved an ill-reputed woman, so that’s why it happened,” Alaa al-Nabarawi, an Islamist writer, told Al Arabiya….
Memo to al-Arabiya and Alaa al-Nabarawi: “conservatives” don’t generally cut off the ears of those they dislike.