Salafi Movement Issues Political Fatwas
Freed from the repression of the Mubarak regime and having changed their position on political activism, Salafis continue to explore ways to play political theater.
One Salafi sheikh, Mohammad Amer, issued a fatwa Oct. 29 prohibiting people from voting for any Muslim candidates who do not perform their daily prayers. He also declared that Muslims may not vote for Christian, secular or liberal candidates
“I want the voters to vote in favor of the candidates of the Islamic movements and to oppose those who want to separate religion from the state,” Amer told Asharq al-Awsat‘s Cairo correspondent Walid Abdul Rahman. “There is nothing called liberalism in Islam and there is no absolute freedom in our religion…”
Other Salafi sheikhs are reported to have claimed that Hosni Mubarak remains the legitimate ruler of Egypt, and that prosecuting him was a violation of God’s will.
Another Salafi sheikh was reported to have insisted that the name of the Jewish quarters in Cairo and Alexandria be changed.
Yet another Salafi scholar, Hazem Shouman, ordered students at Al-Mansurah to cancel a concert, saying it went against the will of God. When the students refused to do so, the Salafi students organized a sit-in in front of the stage.
Representatives of the Islamic establishment from Al-Azhar to the Muslim Brotherhood have condemned these actions.
“It is wrong, completely wrong,” Doctor Abdul Mooti Bayyoumi, a former professor at Al-Azhar, told Asharq al-Awsat. “The people who make such fatwas are not following the teachings of our Prophet Mohammad. Quite the contrary, [Amer’s] fatwa is an attempt to create a misunderstanding over the reality of the Sunni faith…”
Meanwhile, the leading Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai al-Aam reports that the Muslim Brotherhood is asking Salafi leaders to stop these actions for fear they will create a backlash against the entire Islamic movement, including the group’s own Freedom and Justice party. Mahmoud Ghezlan, an official spokesperson for the Muslim Brothers, told the paper “the real problem of the Salafists is that they have never practiced politics in the past. They must reconsider their speech because it is affecting the Islamists in general whether we want that or not. These people only represent their own selves.”
No one knows how influential the Salafis are, including the Salafis themselves. Polls suggest they have limited political influence, especially in the cities.Salafi leaders themselves insist they can deliver millions of votes.
But while critics may claim they are politically naive and inexperienced, they are clearly experts at grabbing headlines and raising public outcry–even from their ostensible allies.