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Salafis Rise After Mubarak’s Fall

March 29, 2011

Al-Masry Al-Youm photo by Hazm Gouda

One of the ironies of the concerns so many pundits had with the Egyptian revolution was their worries about the Muslim Brotherhood. Most of us who studied Egypt said not to worry–the Muslim Brotherhood is

    1. fairly moderate these days, and
    2. not as popular as many people think.

We expected they would try to work within the new political system. So far, that’s what is happening.

But as a recent New York Times report describes, the revolution has unleashed large numbers of Salafis, Muslims who adhere to what they believe to be the practices of the first three generations of Muslims.

But since Mubarak fell Feb. 11, many Salafists held for years without a legal basis have been released, here and across the country. In Dubanah al-Kabirah, they have returned home, and the most aggressive of them are seeking to impose their radical views with a boldness they would never have dared exhibit in Mubarak’s days.

There is nothing inherently wrong with Salafism, of course. But these narrow notions of Islamic practice often lead to intolerance. Much of the current Muslim-Christian violence has apparently been carried out by Salafis. Many of the “Vote Yes” campaigns in the recent referendum were organized by Salafis, and Salafis are said to be responsible for much of the violence carried out against “Vote No” campaigns.

Just as democracy sometimes brings into power governments we might disapprove of, so legal freedom can create spaces for legal but unsavory practices:

Not only were the imprisoned Salafists released to go about their business, villagers said, but the chastened local police force also no longer feels it has the authority to challenge them in the streets unless they clearly break the law.

“The police are the same people,” Abdusattar said, “but before, they could humiliate people, and now they don’t say anything to anybody.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that some Salafist groups preach that democracy is incompatible with Islam. Al Masry al Youm English reported that Salafis had been handing out pamphlets making this case in Cairo

According to one of the flyers, the values of democracy violate the law of God. Further, democracy “allows the people to govern themselves even if they are violating the rule of God.” The flyer, titled “Be a Salafi” called on citizens to reject all voices advocating for a civil state, as such a state would mean the separation of religion from general life and people being governed without the law of God.

Interestingly, some pro-democracy advocates would criminalize even this behavior:

Hassan Nafaa, a political science professor at Cairo University, said the content of these flyers “is expected from some Salafist groups, whose members reject anyone different to them.” He went on to say, “It is the state’s duty to criminalize such practices, which interfere with every citizen’s freedom of expression and belief. The fear is that such practices could influence those with limited intelligence, who could then be exploited in supporting and promoting these ideas.”

UPDATE: It’s been almost a month and I’m still getting a lot of traffic to this post. That’s fine, but make sure you also read the follow-up posts here and here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. peddiebill permalink
    March 29, 2011 5:13 am

    The Salafis may be considerably more influential in the long run than many would like to assume. Afterall they are part of the Wahhabi movement which in Saudi Arabia call the shots and see themselves as the keepers of the Islamic faith. They certainly have no time for the other forms of Islam eg the Shia, and are accused of sponsoring suicide bombers by using Saudi oil money and agitating for the destruction of Shia mosques. Since they backed the previous Mubarak regime in Egypt they were not an obvious part of the revolution, but their stated goals are very much those of the Muslim Botherhood which leaves little space for non Muslim interests in the Middle East. The Copts are not impressed. Watch this space……

  2. sara permalink
    October 19, 2012 7:19 am

    I hate SalafisTerror. May god help us all!!

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