Tag Archives: Salafi

#Egypt: Sharia and the new constitution

While the ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party lost the battle over Egypt’s new constitution, it is likely they will survive politically, and could even take the lead in the Islamist movement
Egypt’s new draft constitution provides better protection for fundamental freedoms and human and minority rights as well as for women and youth, and gives special attention to socio-economic rights, such as education and health.

However, a major issue, among many others, attracted attention throughout the process of drafting of the constitution: the place of Islam and Sharia law in public life.

As expected and already shown in the first draft submitted by the 10-Member Committee of experts on constitutional law, the text prepared by the 50-Member Committee has been stripped of all references to Sharia, inserted by the Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, in the 2012 Constitution, and emphasised the “civil” character of the state. This process provoked a bitter debate between liberals — who dominated the committee — and the only representative of the Salafists, the member of Al-Nour Party, supported from time to time by Al-Azhar Institution, represented by three members on the committee.

But the balance of power within the 50-Member Committee, given the general political context after the fall of the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, did not allow Nour Party to assert its ultraconservative views. The party’s representative was beaten in almost all issues of “Islamic identity” that he defended.

This was particularly the case when the controversial Article 219, introduced under Nour Party pressure in 2012, which gave a strict definition of the “principles of Sharia,” was eliminated from the draft constitution. According to Article 2, the principles of Sharia are “the main source of legislation.” The attempt of Nour Party to introduce, after the abolition of Article 219, a definition of “the principles of Sharia” in the preamble of the new draft constitution also failed.

The new text thus returns to the formula of the 1971 Constitution, in effect under former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Anwar Sadat, which merely mentions the principles of Sharia as “the main source of legislation” without giving them a particular definition, leaving their interpretation to the High Constitutional Court (HCC). Deleted Article 219 limited the powers of interpretation of the HCC, considered as too liberal by Islamists.

The 2012 Constitution also granted Al-Azhar a say, though not mandatory on legislators, on issues related to Sharia. This situation generated fears of the expansion of the role of the religious institution in political and public space, and even, for some, the establishment of a theocracy. This provision is deleted from the new draft constitution, with the agreement of Al-Azhar, which does not want to intervene in the thorny issues of politics.

In the same vein, Article 76 of the 2012 Constitution has been deleted. It provided that a crime may be inferred directly from the text of the constitution, without explicit mention in the penal code. Legal experts interpreted this provision as paving the way for the application by courts of punishments under Sharia law, without the need for prior legislation on specific categories of crime.

The inclusion in the preamble to the draft constitution of the formula “civilian government” is another indication of the de-Islamisation of the national charter. The term “civilian” was neither in the 1971 Constitution nor, a fortiori, in that of 2012.

After the unfortunate experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in power, the liberals, supported by representatives of the three Egyptian Churches — the Coptic, Catholic and Anglican — insisted on introducing this term to cut short any attempt to Islamise the state in the future. This desire to emphasise the civilian character of the state gave rise to an intense debate with the Salafists, which had been joined by Al-Azhar. Nour Party was opposed to any inclusion of the term “civil,” as for them it reflects Western and secular values. The liberals wanted initially to use the formula of “civil state,” which was rejected by Nour Party and Al-Azhar, because for them it could mean a “secular state.” The compromise formula was, finally, “the establishment of a democratic and modern state,” with a ”civil government.”

On another level, the draft constitution prohibits in Article 74 the establishment of political parties on religious or sectarian bases. It thus returns to the formula of the 1971 Constitution. However, the question of religious parties remains. These parties, 11 in total, were created after the popular uprising of 25 January 2011, under the constitutional declaration of March 2011, promulgated by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which also prohibited the establishment of religious parties. The latter, to circumvent the difficulty, avoided making clear reference in their statutes and programmes to their religious nature, but their action and discourse betrayed this dimension. The political context of March 2011 is certainly not that of December 2013, at least for what is left of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), currently frozen.

It is likely that the Salafist Nour Party, the second political force after the FJP in the last parliament, which was dissolved, will survive this prohibition. It is the only Islamist party that agreed to the roadmap announced by the army following the dismissal of Mohamed Morsi 3 July. It also participated in the drafting process of the constitution and refrained from withdrawing from the 50-Member Committee despite the setbacks it suffered, when virtually all of its demands were rejected. The party called on its supporters to vote “Yes” for the draft constitution in the upcoming referendum in January.

This position can be explained by the fact that Nour Party is aware that the wind has turned and that the Islamists have lost the dominance they gained after the fall of Mubarak. Its leadership is both realistic and ambitious. It certainly lost the battle of the constitution, given the new balance of power established after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, but taking into account the weak anchor of liberal parties in the electorate, it keeps the hope and the ambition of inheriting the dominant position of the FJP in parliament and in political life.

#Tunisia: Muslims Threaten Elementary School Teachers with Death for Not Wearing Burka

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burka

Women with uncovered faces might give the little tykes all sorts of ideas. This isn’t happening in Afghanistan… but in Tunisia. The heartland of the Arab Spring.

A group of Salafites has issued death threats against teachers at an elementary school in Djerba, Tunisia, if they will not start wearing the Islamic veil within a week.

In a letter with the logo of Ansar al Sharia, a Salafist Islamic group suspected of terror activities and banned by the Tunisian government, the teachers are threatened by an organization which calls itself a repression cell in the region.

The death threat was denounced by the school director who took the letter to the police.

Primary schools have long been targeted by Islamists as part of what appears like a general plan to set up, without authorization, dozens of Koranic schools with programmes which are completely different from official ones.

A repression cell. How precisely accurate.

Handy solution. If you have trouble setting up your own schools just threaten all the other schools into complying with your program.

Some might complain that it’s unfair to call Salafis moderate. But I’m not being sarcastic. If the Muslim Brotherhood can be repeatedly referred to as a moderate group as well as many of the Salafist militias in Syria that aren’t Al Qaeda… that clearly isn’t a problem.

Scandalous Fatwas in Egypt

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brothReprinted from Gatestone Institute.

As the full ramification of the Muslim Brotherhood’s year in power continues to be exposed, a new study by Al Azhar’s Fatwa [religious opinion] Committee dedicated to exploring the fatwas, or Islamic decrees, issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis—the Islamists—was recently published.

Al Azhar, in Cairo, is considered by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious Islamic universities in the world.  The study, written by Al Azhar’s Dr. Sayed Zayed, and entitled (in translation), “The Misguided Fatwas of the Muslim Brotherhood  and Salafis,” reveals a great deal about how Islamists view women.

The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm summarized some of the Al Azhar study’s main findings and assertions on November 15 in a report entitled (in translation), “Muslim Brotherhood fatwas: A woman swimming is an ‘adulteress’ and touching bananas is ‘forbidden.’”

According to the report, “fatwas issued by both groups [Brotherhood and Salafis] regard women as strange creatures created solely for sex. They considered the voices of women, their looks and presence outside the walls of their homes an ‘offence.’ Some went as far as to consider women as a whole ‘offensive.’”

The study addressed 51 fatwas issued during the rule of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Among them, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis “permitted wives to lie to their husbands concerning politics,” if the husband forbids her from being supportive of the Islamists or their agenda; she may then, through taqiyya [dissimulation] a Muslim doctrine that permits deceit to empower Islam, still be supportive of the Islamists while pretending to be against them.

The study similarly revealed that some of these fatwas decreed that women who swim in the sea are committing “adultery”—even if they wear a hijab: “The reason behind this particular fatwa, from their point of view, is that the sea is masculine [as with other languages, Arabic nouns are gender specific, and “sea” is masculine], and when the water touches the woman’s private parts she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and should be punished.”

Moreover, “Some of these fatwas also forbade women from eating certain vegetables or even touching cucumbers or bananas,” due to their  phallic imagery, which may tempt women to deviate.

Other fatwas decreed that “it is unacceptable for women to turn the air conditioning on at home during the absence of their husbands as this could be used as a sign to indicate to neighbors that the woman is at home alone and any of them could commit adultery with her.”

One fatwa suggested that marriage to ten-year-old girls should be allowed to prevent girls “from deviating from the right path,” while another prohibited girls from going to schools located 25 kilometers away from their homes.

Another stated that a marriage is annulled if the husband and wife copulate with no clothes on.

These fatwas also sanctioned the use of women and children as human shields in violent demonstrations and protests, as these are considered jihads to empower Islam.

Even slavery was permitted, according to the study: “the people who issued these fatwas [Brotherhood and/or Salafi members] demanded the enactment of a law allowing divorced women to own slaves,” presumably to help her, as she no longer has a man to support her.

An earlier report (summarized in English here) listed some other fatwas issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis during Morsi’s tenure: advocating for the destruction of the pyramids and sphinx; scrapping the Camp David Accords; killing anyone protesting against ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (which happened and is one of the main charges against the imprisoned Brotherhood leadership); forbidding Muslims from greeting Christians; forbidding Muslim cab drivers from transporting Christian priests (whose clothing makes them identifiable); forbidding TV shows that mock or make light of Islamists; and forbidding women from marrying any men involved with the former Mubarak government.

Predictably, the Al Azhar study criticizing the Brotherhood/Salafi fatwas concludes by saying that only al Azhar, which styles itself as a moderate institution, is qualified to issue fatwas.  Of course, one of the most sensational of all fatwas—“adult breastfeeding,” which called on women to “breastfeed” strange men, thereby making them relatives and justifying their mixed company—was issued by Al Azhar, but later retracted.   And it is apparently this retracting that makes Al Azhar more moderate than the Brotherhood.

Meanwhile, the Salafis—who, in light of the Brotherhood’s ousting have become Islam’s standard bearers—continue successfully to push for strict Sharia interpretations, the very sort that justify the above fatwas,  in Egypt’s new constitution.