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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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 Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid