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Ed Webb

Thug violence vs. Salafist violence - do definitions really matter? | Kefteji - 0 views

  • The government has said that it will take steps to control violent movements on many occasions, but oftentimes this has felt like lip-service. While a planned secular protest against violence was called off by the interior ministry, a jihadist one was allowed. The government ordered the art gallery in La Marsa to be closed after last week’s events but  had allowed an illegal sit-in by conservatives to go on for almost three months at the state television station. A conflict at the Manouba university over niqabs has been left to fester for an entire academic year because the government has decided not to intervene – leaving the university to solve the problem.
  • When a preacher at Zitouna mosque, an important mosque and center of Islamic theology called on the assasination of the artists responsible for the offending artwork, the Ministry of Religious Affairs called for his sacking. Yet just today reports have said that the preacher will not in fact be sacked. The government has yet to release a clear statement on the matter.
  • While physical violence has been rare, and the country remains comparatively safe, an environment of threats of violence has been left to fester while the intimidation has been met with little challenge from the state, and sometimes denial of well-documented events.
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  • an intellectual space has been opened in Tunisia for those hoping to instill their conservative values on society. This space allows sexist thugs to harass women, violent gangs to team up with religious extremists, and preachers to foster hatred among their followers – no matter whether their theological beliefs correspond to one of the many Salafist worldviews
  • I appreciate the efforts of those who have called out the press for their wanton use of the term Salafist. The use of specific theological terminology for a heterogeneous group does little to clarify the situation. Nevertheless, in order to be intellectually honest, one must also admit that extremist violence is not always committed by extremists. Where hateful ideas are allowed to fester (and sometimes encouraged), hateful actions will follow – regardless of the actors’ beliefs.
Ed Webb

What's behind calls to close Shiite media outlets in Egypt? - 0 views

  • In October 2016, lawyer Samir Sabri filed a lawsuit before the Second Circuit of the Administrative Judiciary Court, demanding that Shiite media outlets and websites be shut down in Egypt
  • “It is unacceptable and unreasonable to have a media platform in Egypt promoting Shiite ideology. Egypt is an Islamic state and the main source of legislation is Sharia under the constitution, which recognizes Christianity and Judaism to be monotheistic. El-Nafis is one of the news websites inciting against Saudi Arabia, Al-Azhar and the Ministry of Awqaf, where Ahmad Rasem al-Nafis attacks in his articles the Sunnis and Saudi Arabia and calls for professing the Shiite faith.”
  • “The Salafist leaders’ Wahhabism was behind the dissemination of extremism in Syria and Yemen. Shiite channels and websites in Egypt do not advocate extremism or renounce any ideology or doctrine. They call for dealing with the Shiites as Muslims at a time when Salafist movements claim that Shiites are non-Muslims.”
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  • “Shiite channels have been operating for years and have not caused strife or crises that Salafist channels ignite. This is because Shiite channels do not incite to violence and bloodshed and do not declare others to be infidels.”
  • “What is happening is a part of the chaotic media and religious discourse. There are 121 religious channels broadcasting via Nilesat, including more than 60 Shiite channels, some of which explain Shiite ideas in a moderate way," he said. "Others are extremist and incite against the Sunni sect. Sunni channels respond also to such incitement with counterincitement. Thus, all extremist channels — be they Shiite or Sunni — need to be taken down.”
  • “The legal criteria in shutting down any station would be based on its content and on whether or not it is viewed as blasphemy or incitement against any religion or belief."
  • “some Salafist channels, such as al-Hafez and al-Nas, were shut down in 2013.”
  • Human rights activist and lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Ahmed Ezzat, told Deutsche Welle in 2012 that the law does not criminalize embracing or promoting the Shiite faith. Shutting down any Shiite channel or prosecuting any promoter of the Shiite ideology would be based on a broad application of the law against blasphemy of religions, he said.
  • many Shiite channels are not at loggerheads with the state institutions, but rather with some Salafist parties.
Ed Webb

Hamas Works to Suppress Militant Groups - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • While some point to the success of Hamas in containing the Salafist groups, others note that the effort is complicated by the fact that most of the jihadists emerged from the ranks of Hamas. They left after the group decided to participate in Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 and beat its secular rival, the Fatah movement. Salafists said Hamas’s decision to participate in the elections derailed it from its Islamic course.
Ed Webb

Salafist Attacks in Egypt Raise Spectre of Sectarian Violence - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

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    Few good directions from here.
Ed Webb

The myth of the Islamist winter - www.newstatesman.com - Readability - 0 views

  • In Tunisia, as in Egypt, the Islamists who came to power through the ballot box are seeing their popularity erode and are tempted to hold on to power by recourse to authoritarian measures. But they have to deal with the legacy of the Arab spring. They face a new political culture: now, one where people who disagree with the government take to the streets; where there is no reverence for established power and the army and the police no longer inspire fear.
  • consider the precise nature of this authoritarian turn because it bears little resemblance to the “Islamic revolution” often associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda, the Renaissance Party, in Tunisia. It is, on the contrary, a conservative and paradoxically pro-western “counter-revolution”
  • The electoral and social base of the Egyptian regime is not revolutionary. Instead of trying to reach a compromise with the principal actors of the Arab spring, Morsi is attempting to get all the supporters of the new order on his side. The coalition he is building is based on business, the army, the Salafists and those elements of the “people” that are supposedly tired of anarchy
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  • economic model is neoliberal
  • State control of religion would in fact go beyond institutions and extend to religious orthodoxy, leading to limitations being placed on Sufi practices and theological discussions. Even if the Muslim Brothers succeed in the first part of the operation – nationalising faith institutions – the price they will have to pay for it will be high, because the imams won’t appreciate being turned into civil servants. They also run the risk of destroying the religious dynamic of their movement: if the state controls religion, what use is a religious “brotherhood”? And if religion is identified with the state, there is a grave risk that the unpopularity of the government will affect faith institutions in turn, as has happened in Iran
  • Time is against Morsi, because the economic measures that he wants to introduce will make the government increasingly unpopular. And, on the other hand, continued popular protest will require him to call on the army, which will support him, but at a price – the political and economic autonomy that the military is asking for runs counter to the Brotherhood’s programme of economic liberalisation
  • the other battleground for the Muslim Brotherhood is control of the religious sphere. Like al- Nahda in Tunisia, it has discovered that this is considerably more diverse than it had thought. Moreover, figures who had previously been relatively docile where the state was concerned, such as Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, have reasserted the autonomy that they were granted by the Arab spring. This means that the only way for the government to wrest back control of the religious sphere is to place it under the authority of the state (specifically, to submit the mosques to the diktat of the ministry of religious affairs)
  • Morsi has accepted the outlook of the IMF, not because he has been forced to do so, but because it is an approach he shares. This will bring further privatisation and competition. And because the price paid by swaths of the population will be severe, the government will need a functioning apparatus of repression and to break the trade unions. It will also have to gain the acquiescence of the army, in exchange for immunity and the right to regulate its own affairs, particularly in the economic sphere
  • a politics more redolent of Pinochet in Chile than of Khomeini in Iran
  • Religion is becoming just one instrument of control among others – rather than a social, economic and ideological alternative. This is, in short, the failure of political Islam
  • Al- Nahda is neither as strong nor as deeply rooted as the Muslim Brotherhood. The movement is more diverse, with a branch that is, if not more liberal, then at least more realistic. And because of their commitment to violence, the Tunisian Salafists are not credible allies
  • Al-Nahda is coming into conflict with the unions, either for the same reasons as in Egypt (a fascination with the free market) or for reasons more specific to Tunisia (it wants allies on its left but cannot bear to compete with a truly popular movement of grass-roots activists)
  • As in Egypt, al-Nahda proposes to use its own ministry of religious affairs to control the religious sphere, although this statism could rebound against the movement
  • if there were a credible and unified opposition, it could beat al-Nahda in the elections. Consequently, Tunisia’s chances of staying democratic are better than Egypt’s
  • The Islamists are succeeding neither in delivering the goods in economic and social terms nor in giving the impression that they are architects of an authentic social project that goes beyond the stamping of “Islamic markers” on a society over which they have increasingly little control
  • To get through the period of austerity and the economic difficulties that go with it, they should have done more to secure a “historic compromise” with the liberals. The alternative to such an alliance is not “Islamic revolution”, however. What is taking shape instead is a coalition that is con - servative in politics and morals but neoliberal in economics, and thus open to the west
Ed Webb

A Chance for Moderation - Sada - 0 views

  • Non-jihadi Salafis, particularly those who have shown a real inclination toward moderation, can play a key role in minimizing the jihadi threat
  • Apart from Salafi jihadis, two other major currents of Salafism exist in Tunisia: Salafiyya ‘Almiyya, often translated as "scientific Salafism," and political Salafism.  Members of the Salafiyya ‘Almiyya current are apolitical, preferring to immerse themselves in religious devotion. Their movement dates back to the eighth century AD. Until the last century, they remained an elitist and almost forgotten sect. Although their profile has risen since the revolution, scientific Salafism’s imprint on religious life remains limited—only around 24 of Tunisia’s mosques are under their control. Nonetheless, some scientific Salafi sheikhs, such as Bashir bin Hassan, are well-known religious figures, with impressive followings and media platforms.
  • political Salafis aspire to use political avenues to influence Tunisian society. Some have formed parties such as Jabhat al-Islah and Hizb ut-Tahrir. Although they were unsuccessful, Jabhat al-Islah members contested six seats in the Constituent Assembly as independents (the party did not receive an official license until March 2012) in the October 2011 elections. Enacting sharia law is their foremost policy priority,  and they have also called for cutting ties with the IMF and World Bank and for Tunisia to stop repaying foreign debts. Hizb ut-Tahrir also advocates an agro-industrial economy that is less reliant on tourism
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  • Although Salafism might seem extreme by definition, the term is still helpfully vague. Some high-profile Islamists have shown a capacity to use the ambiguity of the term to their advantage. For example, last year Ennahda’s co-founder, Rachid Ghannouchi, claimed—in an attempt to pacify and woo young Salafis—that he himself is a Salafi in the sense that Salafism means a “return to the noble values of Islam founded on the Koran and the Sunna.”
  • Mohamed Khoja, who leads Jabhat al-Islah, was one of the founders of the Tunisian Islamic Front, which had suspected ties to terrorism. Now he rejects violence in Tunisia and insists that, if elected, members of his party would not outlaw alcohol or ban bikinis.
  • Ansar al-Sharia is eager to cultivate a peaceful image not just because it fears government reprisals, but also to avoid alienating members who are against violence in Tunisia. It is, after all, a disconnected movement that relies on dozens of charismatic leaders to exploit everyday discontent at the grassroots level of Tunisian society. 
  • Salafi political parties have a much harder task than groups like Ansar al-Sharia. They must prove their ability to shape political decisions, rather than simply blasting more energy into street politics
  • political parties’ youth activities are much less visible. Jabhat al-Islah’s Facebook page is dominated by pictures of middle-aged men. Similarly, older “wise men” are the face of scientific Salafism. As a result, these movements hold limited appeal for youth.
Ed Webb

Salafist Nour Party visits Sinai to combat 'religious extremism' - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online - 1 views

  • The group will hold a series of meetings urging Sinai citizens to stand by the army in combating the “Takfiri” mentality, referring to supremacist Islamist groups in the region.
Ed Webb

Divine rights: the problem of Egypt's Islamists - 0 views

  • at present the wind is not blowing the Islamists' way.  Despite some electoral successes since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Islamist movements are now clearly on the defensive – and not just because of their confrontation with the military in Egypt. Arab (and Muslim) opponents of Islamism, whose voices were often marginalised in the past, are speaking out as never before.
  • In Egypt’s most recent parliamentary election (2011-12) the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, together with allied parties, won 37.5% of the popular vote – well short of an overall majority. Given that the 2011-12 poll was probably as good an electoral opportunity as the Brotherhood is likely to get, this result ought to have prompted some deep reflection within the movement about its future strategy – though its subsequent behaviour suggests the voters’ warning went unheeded.
  • In lower-class neighbourhoods, the Salafis were also quick to denounce the Brotherhood as composed of bourgeois elites disconnected from the street. As a local Nour party leader in a poor Tanta suburb argued, “we are from the people, we were on their side constantly during the Mubarak days, we have developed intimate knowledge of their problems… while the Brotherhood were wasting their time [with] useless institutional politics.”
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  • Around 40% of Egyptians who voted for Islamist parties did not choose the Muslim Brotherhood, preferring an alliance of Salafist parties instead.
  • there are fundamental questions about how far a reconciliation process can go unless the Brotherhood (and the Salafis too) change their approach towards working in a democracy. They are happy to accept electoral politics but still tend to view it as a tool for gaining power rather than a means for determining and implementing the will of the people
  • winning is not the only consequence of being free to contest elections. They may also lose or, as seems likely in Egypt for the forseeable future, have to share power with others. This, however, strikes at the ideological core of Islamism and it’s difficult to see how it can be resolved without changing the ideology.
  • the Nour Party now explicitly defends democratic mechanisms (i.e. elections at all levels, separation of powers, freedom of speech, etc.). They are keen, however, to stress that they distinguish between the “procedures of democracy,” which they accept, and the “philosophy of democracy,” which they reject. For them, ultimate sovereignty cannot be held by the people, but only by God, meaning that there can be no discussion as to whether sharia, understood as an all-encompassing corpus of law, should be enforced
Ed Webb

Saudi Arabia Pleased With Morsi's Fall - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • Saudi Arabia hosted Arab Muslim Brotherhood exiles during the repression of the 1950 and 1960s. They came not only from Egypt but also from Syria, Iraq and other Arab countries where they had been prosecuted. Brotherhood cadres played a pivotal role in Saudi educational institutions and later the transnational organizations set up by King Faisal to counter the spread of Arab nationalism and leftist movements. Saudis used the exiled Islamists as tools to weaken such movements and undermine their credibility, while emphasizing their un-Islamic character. During the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s, Saudis used the worldwide networks established by the Brotherhood to inflame the imagination of its youth and channel aid and weapons. Yet Saudi Arabia never allowed the Brotherhood to establish branches there as they did in other Arab countries and in the West.
  • Educated urban Saudis were attracted to the Brotherhood discourse and impressed by its ability to form civil society organizations, posing as charitable and welfare services. Individuals frustrated with the Wahhabi-Salafist tradition that forbids political action and unconditionally obeys rulers, found in the Brotherhood an authentic discourse capable of mobilizing society. The ideological vacuum that resulted from the death of Arab nationalism and socialism after 1967 was quickly filled by political Islam. To counter the appeal of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi religious establishment condemned it as a divisive force and accused it of undermining people’s creeds. Saudi Arabia began to curb the activities of the Brotherhood after the latter condemned the Saudis for inviting foreign troops to expel then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1990.
  • After 9/11, suspicion of the Brotherhood evolved into outright hostility. Prince Nayif accused the Brotherhood of radicalizing Saudi youth and held it responsible for the terrorism wave that swept the country from 2003 to 2008. Such accusations were unfounded, as most jihadis operating in Saudi Arabia grounded their actions in the teachings of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the 18th-century preacher whose tradition has been dominant in Saudi Arabia up to the present.
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  • unlike official Saudi Salafists, who still believe that democracy is a Western import that promises to bring atheists, secularists and leftists to power, the Brotherhood engaged in elections, won seats in parliaments and even came to power in Tunisia and Egypt. Surely, then, Islam and democracy are not so incompatible. This in itself threatens the foundations of Saudi rule, which is still based on absolute kingship, difficult to justify from an Islamic point of view. The Brotherhood therefore exposes Saudi claims to legitimacy and undermines their credibility as lawful Muslim rulers.
  • The competition over the hearts and minds of Muslims in the growing global Muslim society worries Saudi Arabia, which seeks to monopolize these platforms.
  • Saudi Arabia feared that Morsi would make Egypt drift toward Iran, with whom Saudi Arabia competes for hegemony at the regional level.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood had already drifted toward Qatar rather than Iran, thus allowing this small but wealthy Gulf country to undermine Saudi designs for the region and split the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries over the desired outcome of the Arab uprisings.
Ed Webb

Egypt Sufis plan mass rally to counter Salafist and Wahhabi muscle flexing - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online - 0 views

  • Salafists have been tugging the rope towards a theocratic government, whereas most political forces are tugging towards a 'civil state', which accepts the status quo with regards to the recognition of Islam in the Constitution and would replace the de facto military rule with a civilian one.
  • Sufi leaders, who tend to favour religious tolerance and generally abstain from politics, were alarmed after hundreds of thousands of Islamists organised mass protests around the country on 29 July to call for the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt.
  • at least six million people - or one in every three young men - belong to one or another of the more than 40 Sufi orders
Ed Webb

Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments boosts its imams' media skills - 0 views

  • Will a one-week training enable Egypt’s imams to sound more reassuring, more emphatic and appear more camera-friendly on television? The Ministry of Religious Endowments certainly hopes so.
  • Courses include teaching the imams how to speak in talk shows, telephone interviews and TV debates. It also teaches them body language for interviews on TV as well as writing sound bites for various types of televised interviews. 
  • the course aims to develop the media skills of the imams so that they can “dominate the religious discourse,” counter extremist views expressed by the Salafists and efficiently debunk false interpretations on religion in TV programs.
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  • In 2017, the parliamentary Committee on Religious Affairs approved a draft law that banned issuing fatwas through the media unless prior authorization had been obtained from Al-Azhar, the country’s top religious institution. The draft still has to go through the General Assembly to become law.
  • The Ministry of Religious Endowments — known locally as Awqaf — objected that the right of authorizations should rest with Al-Azhar, saying that this bypasses the ministry, which should be the appropriate authority to grant permissions. The ministry argued that as all of its imams are graduates of Al-Azhar, they were fully equipped to give this permission.
  • Parliament has shelved the draft law until an agreement is reached between Al-Azhar and Awqaf, which has so far failed to materialize. 
  • According to Hosni Hassan, media professor at Helwan University, the main purpose of the trainings is to ensure that the Friday sermons — delivered by imams of Awqaf — are efficient tools to spread the Egyptian state’s version of Islam and to persuade the public.
  • The state — represented by the Ministry of Religious Endowments — is paying close attention to Friday sermons and religious lessons in mosques so they can become tools of improving social and religious behavior
  • “The rate of extremist fatwas has declined since 2013 after the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the group was designated as a terrorist organization and its sheikhs were arrested,”
  • The ministry announced in 2014 that only preachers licensed by the ministry were allowed to deliver the Friday sermons or teach religious classes in mosques.The ministry organizes a number of exams every year for those wishing to obtain such licenses. In 2015, a new law stipulated that unlicensed preachers who deliver the Friday sermons or teach religious courses in mosques shall be sentenced to imprisonment from three months to a year or pay a fine of 20,000-50,000 pounds ($1,238-3,097).
  • The Ministry of Religious Endowments also issued in 2016 a decision that the imams in the mosques deliver a unified Friday sermon.
Ed Webb

Constitution expert blasts Islamist's stance on marriage of young girls - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online - 0 views

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    Notice competing authorities.
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