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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid