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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid