A day in Niqab in the midst of the Cairo Salafi movement [Part 2]

A Sheikh and Priest walk through Tahrir on Friday as a symbol of National Unity. Photo by Deena Adel

The day started as any other. It was a Friday, and I headed down to Tahrir Square in Cairo to participate in the protest to “Save the Revolution”. I bumped into my friend from university, Amina Ismail, there who told me she was going to dress in Niqab and attend a Salafi conference and asked if I wanted to join. I ended up having one of the most interesting days of my life.

There is a lot to write about it, so this post will be divided into several parts.

Part 1: A day in Niqab

Part 2: The Salafis are taking over Egypt (omg!)

As we drove through the city, three girls in Niqab, listening to hip hop music on the way (music that neither of us normally actually listen to) we were headed to Amr Ibn El-Aas Mosque on Friday April 1st to attend the Salafi Conference.

Driving through Masr El Adima neighbourhood, we stopped by a local Cafe (or Ahwa) to make sure we were headed down the right path, as soon as I lowered the window the man said “Yes, yes, you’re on the right track, keep on driving”. Apparently it was evident to the man where we were headed.

The Salafi Movement Conference

Upon arrival at the mosque, the first thing we saw was a huge sign at the entrance “Egypt is an Islamic country, not a civil one nor a military one” along with another that read “There is no separation between the state and religion”. Red flags went up in my head. We walked into the mosque, took off our shoes and made our way into the women’s section. As we sat there, all we could do was listen to the speeches being made by the sheikhs. We couldn’t hear half of what was being said due to the fact that the speakers used were terrible and the amount of children running around and playing did not help. That is why some of the information I will share from what was said at the conference is first hand information I heard there, while some will be gathered from news reports about the conference and attributed.

This conference was called “The Salafi Movement Conference” and hosted some of Egypt’s most prominent sheikhs in support of the Salafi movement including Mohamed Ismail El Mokadem, Said Abdelazim, Yasser El Borhami and Ahmed Farid.

Abdelazim mentioned that Egypt should be run according to the Sharia law, he went on to say that not only Egypt but the whole Arab world should be run by Sharia and should not be split into different states. He discussed that the way the Arab world is divided is due to European colonization and is not based on more than that. He said that we should all live according to Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) way of life. According to Ahram Online, Abdelazim also mentioned that the media had a huge attack on the Salafis in the past weeks and mentioned that they need to get their sources and information straight before they publish any information about the movement. Sheikh Berhamy also mentioned that there were rumors that the Salafis were to attack unvieled women and destroy moslaeums built in mosques and called them lies. He said the Salafi movement strives to change people’s attitudes through preaching and not violence.

Sheikh Abdelazim discussed the vote on the constitutional amendments and made a statement that the result turning to “yes” proves how strong the Islamic movement is. Even though it has been argued that most people who votes yes did so for the sake of “stability” or for their own valid political reasons rather than anything to do with article 2 of the constitution which states that Egypt is an Islamic country and that the Sharia law is a main point of reference. An article that was not even up for referendum. He labeled possible presidential candidates Mohamed El Baradei and Amr Moussa along with prominent business man Naguib Sawiris as “Liberals” who were campaigning for the “No” vote.

What now?

A Sheikh and Priest walk through Tahrir on Friday as a symbol of National Unity. Photo by Deena Adel

This information is not new in anyway. We all knew that the Islamic movements in Egypt want Egypt to become an Islamic state, governed by Sharia law. Just like the liberals want Egypt to become a secular state, just like the socialists want Egypt to become a socialist state. With the January 25th revolution, all these different groups that were previously suppressed by the government started appearing in the media and going public with their message. Then again, isn’t that what we were fighting for? Freedom of expression and liberation? We all knew these groups existed, and they have a voice. Some of them are extreme, yes, and any violence should be punishable by law. Then again its up to us to form groups, movements and parties to represent us in the political arena. The brotherhood, the Salafis and other movements should have a voice, as they do represent a certain amount of the population. Other ways of thinking should be represented and be part of legislation and decision making as well. As long as we will hopefully have a constitution that protects our freedoms and rights as citizens of this country, no matter our gender, religion or beliefs, then there is no fear of the “Isamic Monster” the old regime used to keep convincing us that their oppression would be better than these extreme Islamic movements.

I leave you with this video from the Bassem Youssef Show  (Arabic) Egypt’s very own Jon Stewart. In this episode he disucsses the Constitutional Referrendum that took place last month. This somehow was one of the main events that shed a lot of light on the Salafis in Egypt, and made it seem that 77% of Egyptians voted yes because the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood pushed them to do so. Whereas as I mentioned above many people voting yes, were voting yes for political and economic reasons. He satirically shows that we have many different, and mostly opposing opinions and political ideologies in Egypt, and of course we’re at a phase where they are clashing because for the first time in decades they have the freedom to speak and act somewhat freely. However, we will find a common ground between the islamists, liberals, conservatives…etc where we can all co-exist freely, just like we did in Tahrir square just a few months back.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRSQqawnStU&w=640&h=390]
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