News / Middle East

Egyptian Sufis Reject Rise of Islamists

Shrine of Imam Hussein in Cairo, the grandson of prophet Muhammad and one of the most beloved Shi'ite saints -a key pilgrimage site for Sufis (file photo)
Shrine of Imam Hussein in Cairo, the grandson of prophet Muhammad and one of the most beloved Shi'ite saints -a key pilgrimage site for Sufis (file photo)
Elizabeth Arrott

Some of Egypt's minority Sufi Muslims are warning against the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism in national politics.  Adherents of the mystical form of Islam are holding a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday to make the case for a tolerant, civilian Egyptian state.  

The gathering has adopted the slogan "For the Love of Egypt," arguing for a new government that embraces the political and religious spectrum rather than the fundamentalist vision of an Islamic state.

Fundamentalist Muslim rally causes apprehension

Alaa Abu al-Azayem, head of the al-Tahrir political party and leader of the Azmiya Sufi sect says his group's participation in the rally - the first time members have called for such action - comes in direct response to a rally late last month of tens of thousands of fundamentalist Muslims.  

He says the July 29th protest caused fear for all Egyptians, Christians and Muslims, warning that if "those people" came to rule the country, they would make anyone who opposes them "disappear."     

It's a dire prediction, but al-Azayem is not alone in his fears.  Calls by Salafi and Wahabi groups for a strict interpretation of Sharia law in the new Egyptian constitution have raised alarm among the country's Christians, secularists and more moderate Muslims.  

Those groups had planned to take part in Friday's mass iftar - the Ramadan evening meal - but many have decided to postpone the gathering for a week after meeting with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.   

Those in favor of the delay, including secularists, other Sufi sects as well as the nation's leading Islamic political group, the Muslim Brotherhood, say they are waiting for a government announcement in the coming days on the constitutional drafting process.    

Another reason given for the delay is the toll the protests are taking on Egyptians, with those in favor of postponement arguing that the focus should now be on upcoming elections.   Moreover, they say, the weekly rallies are hurting the economy.    

But Sufi leader Al-Azayem counters that allowing fundamentalists to dominate the political dialogue could be equally problematic - and points to the fall in the Egyptian stock market after the Islamist show of force last month.     

Al-Azayem adds that the purpose of Friday's meeting is to assure the Egyptian public that "a peaceful force exists", one that does not alienate other groups but accepts them and their differences.   

Religious minorities and secularists argue that Islamist groups played little role in the January uprising, and are now trying to hijack the movement.  Salafi leaders have said they would respect the democratic process and the rights of others, but argue that an Islamist state would evolve naturally over time.

Salafi extremist attacks

Attacks by Salafi extremists on Christians, Sufi places of worship and even pharaonic sites in recent months have led many to question promises of peaceful coexistence.   

The current military government has urged an end to all protests in Tahrir, and has authorized force to clear the square several times since the uprising succeeded in February.  Officials say they have met most of the demonstrators' key demands, including putting former President Hosni Mubarak on trial.  

Officials were quoted Thursday as again saying they were working to end the nation's much-hated emergency laws, in place for nearly 30 years.   Islamic as well as other religious groups were banned from forming political parties under the former government, and many Islamist leaders were imprisoned under the emergency measures.   

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid