The Islamization of Egypt over the past few decades by ert634


									                  THE ISLAMIZATION OF EGYPT
                                     Adel Guindy*

This article discusses the recent strengthening of the Muslim Brotherhood and the
Islamist movements in Egypt. It then looks at the resulting regression in
modernization and Westernization efforts in the country. The article also focuses on
the adverse effects these changes have had on Egyptian Copts.

The     success     of    the     Muslim      governance soon led to a clash of
Brotherhood to gain a fifth of the            interests. As a result, the Brotherhood
parliamentary seats in the latest             was banned in 1954, and its aspirations
elections in Egypt (November 2005)            and designs had to be shelved.
seemed to have taken many people by           However, these aspirations never died.
surprise. The recent acceleration in the          Following the Nasser years, with
number of attacks on Copts in the             the wins, losses, and experimentations
country may also take some by                 with Arabism and socialism, those
surprise. These two phenomena are in          shelved aspirations were revived with
fact linked and should be seen as a           the arrival of Anwar Sadat. He began
natural consequence of relentless             his rule by reopening the doors to the
efforts over the past few decades to          Brotherhood and other off-shoots of
Islamize the country.                         Islamic groups. He then initiated what
    Six decades ago, Egypt’s ruling           one could, in hindsight, term “the
system, under a corrupt monarchy and          Great Islamic Transformation” of
on the verge of collapse, nearly fell         Egypt. The first step was to stipulate in
into the laps of the Muslim                   the Second Article of his new
Brotherhood. Established only two             Constitution, promulgated in 1971
decades earlier (in 1928), the                (long before Khomeini embarked on
Brotherhood appeared to have garnered         his Islamic revolutionary campaign),
such strength that to them it seemed          that the Principles of Islamic Shari’a
natural they would take over the rule in      were “a main source” of legislation. In
the country and establish an Islamic          May 1981, the “a” was replaced with
state from the ruins of the                   “the,” making Shari’a the term of
dysfunctional liberal system.                 reference for the entire constitution,
    Then came the army’s coup d’état          meaning all other articles were to be
(later called a “revolution”). Even           interpreted in that light. 1
though most of the “Free Officers” had            That change provided the legal,
previously been Brotherhood members           political, and “psychological” basis for
and, as new rulers, it was clear they         the Islamic transformation to proceed
had special connections with the              in an inexorable fashion. Sadat’s
Brotherhood,      the     realities    of     famous slogan, “I am a Muslim

92      Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)
                               The Islamization of Egypt

president of a Muslim state” was a                At     government      administration
clear indication of this transformation.      offices, it is common for employees to
                                              spend most of the workday (already
THE ISLAMIC                                   among the shortest in the world)
TRANSFORMATION                                performing ritual ablution and prayers.
                                              Office managers and senior directors
                                              often double as prayer leaders. It is
   The society began a gradual Islamic        indeed rare to find an office that is not
transformation. Consider the following        adorned with religious artifacts, such
examples of Egypt’s transformation.           as framed Koran verses and photos of
   Not only the hijab, but also the           Qa’aba along with photos of the
niqab 2 became widespread and a part          president—a perfect example of the
of a national dresscode of sorts for the      amalgamation of religious and state
Egyptian women. Beyond the push to            symbols.
exhibit ever more piety, this trend was           The national carrier, EgyptAir,
defended, in Orwellian fashion, in the        which for years has banned serving
name of “personal freedom." If Huda           alcohol 3 on all flights also recites at
Sha’arawi and Qasim Amin—the                  every take-off and landing the
visionary champions of the women’s            “Invocation of Travel,” originally
liberation movement of the early              intended for desert trips on camelback.
twentieth century—were still alive,           While alcohol is still not totally banned
they would find the present scenes on         in the country, local authorities in the
the streets of Cairo utterly devastating.     governorates have over the past several
   Mosques         broadcast      prayers     years gradually restricted its sale to
(including at early dawn) over public         “tourist” areas. This is done to feign
speakers, and religious recordings have       public piety or simply to avoid possible
replaced popular music in most                attacks by Islamists on bars and other
transport vehicles (taxis, buses, and         places where alcohol is sold. During
minibuses) as well as in shops. It is not     the fasting month of Ramadan, alcohol
unusual to see Metro (subway) cars            may be served in tourist locations
turned into preaching (proselytizing)         outside the fasting hours (i.e. between
forums by feverish zealots. Moreover,         sunset and dawn), and only to
owners of apartment buildings who             foreigners. Ironically, an Egyptian non-
have transformed even part of their           Muslim would not be served a beer,
building’s basement into a prayer hall        whereas a foreigner (even if Muslim)
(equipped with microphones) receive           would be.
special local property tax exemptions.            Even the basic and familiar daily
   The       professional      syndicates,    greetings            of             “good
organizations, and the Lawyers’ Bar—          morning/evening/day,”                using
mostly dominated by Islamists—have            expressions for which Egyptians were
been turned into forums for spreading         long renowned, were replaced with the
an Islamic—and violently anti-                standard Islamic “assalamu alaykum.” 4
Western—agenda rather than attending          The “hello” naturally said in answering
to members’ needs and providing them          the phone, has equally been replaced
services.                                     by the same Islamic expression.

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)       93
                                      Adel Guindy

    Likewise, the century-old school of       special commission headed by the
fine arts is now filled with hijab-           speaker of the Shura Council (The
wearing girls and bearded men, all            “Consultative Council,” or the upper
claiming that sculpturing and drawing         parliamentary chamber, which has
human models is “illicit.” 5 Already          limited legislative powers). According
from the late 1970s, depicting nude           to the Parties Law, a new party must
models has been banned, and all               meet certain criteria in order to become
artwork statues showing full or partial       eligible. A main criterion is that the
nudity once exhibited in the school           “party’s      principles,     objectives,
were moved to the school’s storage            programs, politics, and approaches in
rooms. It is worth noting that the drive      performing its activities do not
towards such extremist attitudes is           contradict the principles of Shari’a;
propagated by preachers in the prayer         these being the main source of
halls of the school itself.                   legislation in the country.” 8 When the
    Indeed, the Grand Mufti of Egypt          new party “Egypt the Motherland”
recently declared statues “illicit.” 6 In     applied in February 2004, the Parties
response to criticism by some writers         Commission (currently headed by the
worried that such fatwas would further        secretary general of the ruling National
blemish the image of Islam in the             Democratic Party) quickly denied its
world, the Mufti said that he was only        approval, essentially because its
reiterating this old fatwa based on a         program spoke of the necessity to
hadith (a saying by the Prophet) 7 and        adopt some kind of secularism in the
that he was not in a position to deny or      country. The party duly challenged the
negate “what is established in the            decision in the courts in July of the
matters of religion” no matter what.          same year. After lengthy procedures,
Will the treasures of the pharaohs one        the Supreme Administrative Court
day meet the same destiny as that of          decided to uphold the Commission’s
the Buddha statutes demolished by the         decision, asserting that the party’s
Taliban? One woman already smashed            program “does not define the
statues in the Hassan Heshmat                 secularism (it calls for), or how to
Museum in Cairo following the famous          separate between the religious and
fatwa.                                        political authorities...”
    Propagators of extremist thought              Egyptian nationalism and patriotism
are given a free hand to spread their         have receded and have been replaced
ideas by all means (as long as they are       by a new sense of Pan-Islamism in
not overly critical of the regime). On        which a fellow Muslim from Pakistan
the other hand, efforts by civil society      or Malaysia is considered to be much
are systematically obstructed, and the        closer than a Coptic co-citizen. For
defenders of liberal and progressive          instance, in a recent interview with the
ideas have—until very recently—been           Supreme Guide of the Muslim
extremely marginalized. The bases of          Brotherhood in a government-owned
critical thinking and respect for the         paper, he stated with no ambiguity:
“other” are not even taught in school.        “Tuz fi (To hell with) Egypt,” “Our
    Establishing political parties in         nationality is Islam,” and “The Rule of
                                              the Ottoman Empire over Egypt was
Egypt is subject to the approval of a
                                              not an occupation, because it was a

94      Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)
                                The Islamization of Egypt

Muslim Caliphate.” 9 To show his zeal          complete without attempting to
for Pan-Islamism, he said, “We don’t           examine the state of the religious
mind to have a Malaysian president for         establishment in the country.
Egypt (as long as he is Muslim).”                  In the early years of the 20th
Surprisingly, few voices arose to reject       Century, Egypt had five religious
such abhorrent discourse.                      (Koranic) schools with about 3,000
    It would require volumes to                students, some of whom would
document the drastic role played over          ultimately          join         al-Azhar
the past few decades by the                    Mosque/University to become imams.
government-owned media, which are              Today, the number of institutes has
typically mouth-pieces reflecting the          mushroomed to seven thousand, with
government’s directives in the process         no less than 1.5 million students. 11
of Islamic Transformation. Yet one             Even considering the population
recent example says a great deal. On           growth, this is still a huge proportional
December 9, 2005, a guest on one of            increase, most of it taking place over
the     regular     religious    programs      the past few decades.
broadcast on Cairo’s main television               In regards to the religious curricula
channel used the opportunity to pour           and material taught in these schools,
out his wrath on “secularists” in              the prominent thinker Lafif Lakhdar
Egypt. 10 He emphasized that Islam’s           reports 12 that the students are taught
tenet as “a state and a religion” was          under the topic of the “Rules of
one of the fundamentals without which          Dhimmitude” that “the meaning of the
the faith could not be upheld. He went         dhimmitude contract is to accept that
on to explain that the objectives of           some infidels (kuffar) remain in their
legislation in the Muslim state must be        infidelity (kufr) on the condition that
within the boundaries of defining what         they pay the tribute (jizzyah) in utter
is licit and illicit (as stipulated by the     humiliation,      according     to     the
Shari’a).                                      commands of the Highest (Allah) in
    This, coming only a few weeks after        the     Koran.” 13     Lakhdar     further
the “surprise” success of the Muslim           identifies examples of flagrant
Brotherhood in the parliamentary               religious discrimination as he quotes
elections may indicate that in essence,        from the same book that orders
there is little ideological difference         dhimmis “not [to] be buried in our
between the government and the                 tombs…. [T]hey can enter public baths
Brotherhood.        The     main     issue,    only if porting bells or having their
therefore, is who holds the reigns of          necks stamped; they ride donkeys
power and to what extent (or rather            without saddles, not horses; they
how fast) the ideology is implemented.         should not take a lead position in
                                               meetings; one should not stand up [to
                                               salute] them, nor be first to greet them
                                               or congratulate them or visit them
                                               when sick; they should not be allowed
                                               to ring their (church) bells; and should
   The examples mentioned above                be forced to go through the narrowest
demonstrating       the      Islamic           of alleys.” No wonder then, as Lakhdar
Transformation of Egypt would not be           concludes, that Shaykh Mustafa

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)        95
                                      Adel Guindy

Mash’hur, the (previous) leader of the        minister of endowment once boasted
Muslim Brotherhood, demanded that             (in 2004) that his ministry’s budget had
Copts not be allowed into the Army.           grown forty times in twenty years to
    Over 400,000 students in 70               reach 1.5 billion pounds (about US
faculties are currently enrolled in al-       $270). 17     Showing      where      the
Azhar University, 14 and there are over       government’s priorities lie, such large
7,000 faculty members. During the             expenditures drain the national budget,
2005/2006 academic year it accepted           leaving less for vital issues, such as
over 83,000 students, 15 becoming one         education, health, environment, etc.
of the largest universities in the world.         Another simple calculation would
It is only open to “believers,” though        then show that the number of Egyptian
some of its faculties offer secular           Muslims who devote their lives to
studies in engineering, medicine, or          religion—whether studying, teaching,
commerce (albeit always tinged with           preaching, or attending to other
religious teachings). Incidentally, the       supporting      activities—exceeds      a
university provides free education to         staggering 2.5 million. There are then,
some 20,000 Muslim students from              when including the families of
over 60 countries. A simple calculation       employees, some eight to ten percent
would show that in all, 1.9 million           of Egyptian Muslims whose lives
students are enrolled in various stages       revolve around religion. It is worth
of religious education.                       noting that such individuals often
    Egypt     boasts     over    120,000      know little about those things that are
mosques, in addition to some 900,000          not related to Islam and have never had
prayer areas. By mid-2005, some               any personal acquaintances who are
92,000 mosques 16 were run by the             not Muslims.
“Ministry of Endowments” (which, in               It would be difficult to estimate
reality, is the Ministry of Islamic           accurately national expenditure on
Affairs). A plan was under way to             religious      affairs,    including—in
integrate an additional 2,500 mosques         addition to the above-mentioned
in the 2005/2006 fiscal year, offering        activities—those related to hajj
10,000 new employment positions for           (pilgrimage to Mecca) and foreign
imams and preachers (as government            religious missions (proselytizing) that
employees). The Ministry builds and           fan the world. However, it would be
runs new mosques and also covers all          quite safe to say that these exceed the
management costs of privately-built           foreign financial aid that Egypt
mosques that become integrated under          receives from the United States, EU,
its auspices. Its vast expenses are           and other donors.
partially covered by endowments, but              At the annual Koran studies
largely come from the general state           (reciting and rote learning) celebrations
budget (i.e. at the tax-payers’ expense).     and the Prophet’s Birthday, Egypt’s
The budget for building and furnishing        president takes it upon himself to hand
mosques alone in 2005 was LE 320              out in person awards to students and
million (approximately US $60). To            scholars, not only from Egypt but also
this, one must add the costs of               from all over the world. 18 A new
maintenance and the salaries of over          international Islamic studies award
400,000 employees. Indeed, the

96      Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)
                                The Islamization of Egypt

carrying Mr. Mubarak’s name was                and lived in its light.” 20 Shari’a harbors
created last year. In addition there is an     several     objectionable      stipulations
annual award to the governorate in             according to current human rights
Egypt that “excels in the efforts to           standards (such as cruel punishments
expand the centers of Koran learning to        by      stoning,     amputation,        and
every village and hamlet.” This occurs         flagellation;     or the prohibition—
at a time when there are no competitive        through apostasy rules—on freedom of
efforts across the nation addressing           belief). Therefore, it was rather
such areas as illiteracy, environment,         shocking to see Shaykh Muhammad
reduction      of      road     accidents,     Sayid Tantawi—otherwise known for
cleanliness,        attracting        more     his moderate views—make such
investments,           or         reducing     sweeping statements. They simply
unemployment.                                  imply such forms of punishment
    The special fatwa department in            should be put back in the penal code,
Egypt issues about 100,000 fatwas              more than a century after having been
(religious opinions) per year, 19 and it       removed.
has a database containing over one                Second, the official website of the
million fatwas. In March 2005, Egypt           “Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs,”
and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement           an official body of the “Ministry of
on “cooperation in the domain of               Awqaf,” (The Ministry of Endowment
da’wa      (preaching,      proselytizing),    and Islamic Affairs) 22 posted an article
preparation and qualification of imams         entitled “Islam versus Ahl al-Kitab:
to inform others of Islam and its              Past and Present.” 23 The author, Dr.
tolerance and its stance towards               Maryam Jameelah, attempts to answer
modern issues… and to the service of           the question “how can we be certain
Koran and Sunnah, through publishing           that Islam is the only infallible Truth?”
and translations….” However, keeping           The article concludes by emphatically
in mind the reputation of the Saudis’          stating:
Wahhabi Islam when it comes to
“tolerance” and “modern issues,” the               Peaceful relations and mutual
prospects      for       the     religious
                                                   respect among us can only be
establishment in Egypt look grim.
                                                   achieved through strength. We
    One need not look beyond the                   must cease indulging in apologetics
following two examples for indications             and present the Islamic message to
of the kind of message the religious               the world honestly and forthrightly.
establishment currently spreads:                   Before we can hope to succeed
    First, the Grand Shaykh of al-                 with Tabligh (proselytizing) on a
Azhar, the highest religious authority             large scale, we must first convert
in the country wrote recently: “The                the nominal Muslims into true
belief of the believer and the Islam of a          believers. We must establish a full-
Muslim would not be complete unless                blooded Islamic state where the
he fully believes that all what Islamic            world will witness our precepts
Shari’a contains, as rules, manners,               translated into action. Finally, we
orders and prohibitions is the Truth               must crush the conspiracies of
that must be followed, implemented                 Zionism,              free-masonry,

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)         97
                                      Adel Guindy

     Orientalism and foreign missions         been lost and/or “tampered with.” The
     both with the pen and with the           message propagated by mosque
     sword. We cannot afford peace and        preachers is no less derogatory. The
     reconciliation with the Ahl al Kitab     issue does not relate to a (indecent)
     until we can humble them and gain        “theological” debate. Rather, the issue
     the upper hand.                          is that such discourse, repeated and
                                              hammered incessantly, would only turn
                                              an ordinary Muslim into a fanatic, if
                                              not a radical. Hence, such harassment
                                              and violence against Copts would be
    Those who have suffered and who           rendered perfectly justifiable, if not
continue to suffer most from this             desirable,     indeed     becoming        a
drastic transformation are undoubtedly        “religious duty.” 25
the Copts. “I can no longer stand the            A presidential decree is required for
insults and the spitting in my face           every permit to build a church (which
because I don’t wear hijab. I have            unlike a mosque, would be paid for
become a stranger in my own country.”         entirely by the faithful.) The process,
This statement made by a young                dominated by the state security
Coptic woman from Alexandria, as              apparatus, is deliberately entangled and
quoted by the correspondent of Le             usually takes many years. The
Figaro (April 17, 2006) after a series        government hailed a recent presidential
of quasi-simultaneous attacks on three        decree that delegates to provincial
churches, speak loudly of the overall         governors the power to authorize
situation of Copts in Egypt. This             rebuilding “a ruined or fallen church
statement, however, represents only the       on its site.” 26 The real power to
tip of the iceberg of the Copts’              authorize still remains with the state
suffering.                                    security apparatus, with little change in
    Apart from the scores of violent          the painful process. The irony,
attacks against them over the past 35         however, is that the decree appears to
years, they have been forced into a de-       be fully in line with the spirit and letter
facto dhimmi status. 24 In fact, the          of the “Chart of Omar” 27 in that it
infamous Second Article of the                restricts building churches replacing
Constitution provides the legal basis to      existing ones at their exact site and of
discriminate against and marginalize          the same size.
the Copts in their own homeland.                 During        the     most       recent
    There are numerous indications            parliamentary elections, the ruling
pointing to the status of the Coptic          party fielded only two Coptic
minority, which makes up around ten           candidates. The result was that only
million in a country of 74 million.           one, who was also a government
Following are but a few examples:             minister, was elected (with difficulty)
    The media is not only inundated           among 444 members. Not only did the
with Islamic religious material, but          other candidate fail, but Islamist riots
also routinely ridicules Christianity and     broke out at the district where he ran in
Judaism as “falsified” or “perverted”         Alexandria and led to attacks on
religions whose original “Books” have         churches as well as ransacked shops
                                              and properties. There were only two

98       Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)
                               The Islamization of Egypt

Copts elected in the previous elections       where 21 Copts were massacred on
of 2000, and none in 1995.                    January 2, 2000. Despite arrests of
    The numbers of Copts accepted to          over one hundred persons, nobody was
military and police academies,                found guilty by the lower, appeal, or
judiciary posts and diplomatic corps,         Cassation courts. Doubts on the
and teaching posts at universities are        neutrality of the judiciary system apart,
limited to a one to two percent quota.        the police investigative authorities
Such quotas are obviously never               simply never provided sufficiently
declared, but are consistent and              reliable data to support the case against
relatively easy to demonstrate based on       the real perpetrators.
the published lists of acceptances. 28            One successful “technique” often
There are no Copts in “sensitive”             adopted by the authorities is to declare
sectors, such as state security organs or     the     culprit    as    “mentally     (or
the presidency. The entire local              psychologically) unstable” and thus not
governance system is practically free         in a condition to be tried. Another
of Copts. Not a single Copt occupies a        technique is to force the Copt victims
university or faculty dean post.              to retract their complaints and enter
    The curricula of public schools,          into “reconciliation” with their
established by the Ministry of                attackers for the sake of preserving
Education, ignore the Coptic era in           “National Unity.” In all cases, attacks
Egypt’s history. Courses glorifying           against Copts are systematically
Islam (the “Only True Religion”) and          referred to as “sectarian conflict (or
its history, while vilifying the              sedition),” thus implying that “both
crusaders (i.e. Christians) and the Jews,     sides” are to blame.
are imposed on all students. Religious            Organized, and well-dissimulated,
(Islamic) references permeate various         groups target young girls and women
courses, including science. Most              to convert them to Islam. The entire
schools have replaced the daily salute        state is mobilized to facilitate the
to the flag with the Islamic                  conversion procedures, even if those
proclamation “Allahu Akbar.”                  concerned are minors in the eyes of the
    The city of Alexandria, once the          law. On the other hand, a Muslim
capital of the Mediterranean culture,         choosing to convert to Christianity
which as recent as the 1950s was a            faces despicable treatment by the
flourishing and cosmopolitan city in          authorities and often ends up having to
which religions and races mixed, has          live incognito or to flee the country
become a hot point of Islamic                 altogether, if possible.
fanaticism and repeated aggressions               In the case of a father of a Christian
against Copts. The numerous cases of          family converting to Islam, his minor
attacks on lives, churches, and property      children are forced to follow suit: The
of Copts are often conducted under the        mother’s custody rights—a well
negligent—if not complacent—eyes of           established      legal     principle—are
the security apparatus. Culprits, if          ignored in this case, as children,
caught, are seldom “found guilty” by          according to typical court rulings, 29 are
the courts. A flagrant example is that        supposed to follow the “better (or
of al-Kosheh village in Upper Egypt           ‘more noble’) of the two religions.”

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)       99
                                       Adel Guindy

Under current laws, if one partner in a        the situation—as part of his
Christian marriage changes to another          constitutional       responsibilities—go
denomination (say from Orthodox to             unheeded. A call to establish a special
Evangelical,      or    Catholic),     the     council composed of leading Muslim
stipulations of Shari’a immediately            and Coptic figures to report issues of
apply to the marriage in case of any           citizenship rights to the president was
intra-marital dispute.                         totally ignored. On the other hand,
    It is an obligation to declare one’s       such abuses are taking place before the
religious affiliation (among a very            watchful eyes—with few protests or
short list of “recognized” religions) in       objections—of the “freedom-loving”
all official formalities, including the        nations of the world and the various
national identity card. Such measures          international institutions that are meant
facilitate discrimination practices.           to correct such wrongs.
Furthermore,       the    Civil     Status
Department’s “computer system” often           CONCLUSION
list Christians as Muslims. Attempts to
correct such errors invariably prove to
be extremely difficult, if not                     The media has consistently played a
impossible, with severe ramifications          major role in the process, but when
on the lives of those concerned. 30            questioned about the excessive
                                               religious material in the government
    Recently, an administrative court          media, Egyptian officials usually offer
ruled that the Coptic Orthodox Church          a pretext that the government, in its
remarry a divorced person. 31 Since            efforts to defeat the violent Islamist
according to Church teachings                  groups, has been trying to “pull the rug
marriage is a sacrament and not merely         from under their feet” (by outdoing
a civil partnership, this ruling, which        them in religiosity). However, the
was duly referenced by the court to            problem is believed to be deeper than a
“constitutional principles,” amounts to        simple reaction to Islamist violence; it
a license to override the beliefs of the       is more likely a deliberate process that
Church. The same court would never             has continued over the past few
dare attempt to order the Islamic              decades.
authorities in the country to marry a
Muslim woman to a non-Muslim, as                   Nevertheless, and without trying to
such unions are prohibited by Shari’a.         minimize the potential catastrophic
Some years ago, another court ruled            risks associated with a possible
that polygamy was permissible in               establishment of a fully Islamist
Christianity.                                  regime in Egypt, it is only fair to
                                               conclude that the “Great Islamic
    Yet what is especially sad about the
                                               Transformation,” implemented (and/or
abuse of the Copts’ citizenship and
                                               tolerated) by the government over the
human rights is that, on the one hand,
                                               past few decades has paved the way for
the      Egyptian     government      still    the Muslim Brotherhood to take over
adamantly insists that there is no such
                                               the rule in a perfectly natural and even
thing as a “Coptic problem.”
                                               “democratic” fashion.
Continuous appeals by numerous
Copts to the president to take charge of           Indeed, that the Islamists (only)
                                               won a fifth of the Assembly’s seats can

100     Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)
                                The Islamization of Egypt

be misleading; one must not forget that
they had fielded candidates in no more            An all black garment, with only a
than a third of the total constituencies.      narrow slot for the eyes.
In other words, the Brotherhood would             Sharing that honor only with Saudi
be bound to sweep the vote in fully-           Airlines in the Arab world.
open, fair, and free elections in the             This literally means “peace be upon
future. Hamas’s recent victory in the          you,” which is not at all bad in itself.
Palestinian Authority elections is             The real issue is that of forced
another eye-opener.                            vestmental and behavioral codes in all
    Furthermore,            Islamization,      aspects of life.
especially the stipulation in the                     Reported     by     Rose-elyoussef
Constitution that Shari’a is the main          Magazine, April 13, 2006.
source of legislation, has also led to a          See Dr. Hamed Ammar, al-Kahera,
serious deterioration of the Coptic            April 4, 2006.
minority’s conditions; they have                  In this particular case, the hadith in
become subject to a de-facto dhimmi            question infers that “angels” would
status, relegated to second-class              never enter a house adorned with
citizens.                                      statues or where dogs were.
                                                   According to Article 4 of Law
    Overall,    Egypt,     which      has
                                               40/1977 on Political Parties.
undergone serious modernization and            9
                                                 Roza newspaper, April 17, 2006.
Westernization efforts since the days          10
                                                   The guest was Dr. Mohamed Imara,
of Muhammad Ali Pasha 32 (who ruled
                                               among the most popular extremist
after the awakening cultural shock
                                               leaders. He is a regular guest on
caused by Napoleon’s Conquest)
                                               government TV shows and writes a
seems to have regressed. Egypt badly
                                               weekly column in the government-
needs a leadership that will reverse the
                                               owned al-Akhbar newspaper.
trend and put the country back on a            11
                                                    Information based on a series of
course     of     enlightenment      and
                                               articles by Shaykh Ali Goma’a, al-
                                               Ahram, July/August 2005.
                                                          Refer         to         article:
*Adel Guindy is a writer on Middle   
East issues based in France.                   afif_hadatha.htm.
                                                   These ideas reflect the stipulations of
                                               the “Chart of Omar.” Refer to endnote
NOTES                                          29 below.
                                                    Information based on a series of
  By way of comparison, Article 1 of           articles by Shaykh Ali Goma’a, al-
the French Constitution states: “France        Ahram, July/August 2005.
shall be an indivisible, secular,              15
                                                   Exactly 83,331 students. Refer to al-
democratic and social Republic. It shall       Ahram, September 22, 2005.
ensure the equality of all citizens            16
                                                    Reported in al-Ahram, June 23,
before the law, without distinction of         2005.
origin, race or religion. It shall respect     17
                                                  Al-Ahram, May 10, 2004.
all beliefs.”                                  18
                                                   Reported in al-Ahram, April, 15 and
                                               21, 2005, October 30, 2005.

Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)          101
                                        Adel Guindy

   Refer to al-Ahram, August 6, 2005.           admitted to the Police Academy, out of
    Al-Ahram newspaper (government-             a total 1,050.
owned), May 15, 2006.                              A recent case at hand: On May 18,
    Collectively called hudud (penal            2006, the Court of Appeals in
limits).                                        Alexandria upheld (in the case 679/43)
    See article at: http://www.islamic-         the ruling of a lower court whereby the                                (Coptic) defendant mother Camilla
muslims_u/Chapter3.asp.                         Lotfi was ordered to give up her twin
    People of the Book, Jews and                children Andrew and Mario (aged 11
Christians.                                     years) to their father, Medhat Ramses,
    Under the dhimmitude status, the            who had converted to Islam. Ignoring
“People of the Book” are allowed to             the applicable law, which grants the
keep their faiths, while living under           custody of children below 15 years to
complete submission to the reign and            their mother, the court decided to
rules of Islam, including the payment           implement the precepts of Shari’a
of jiziah “in humbleness.” In 1856, that        instead. It stated that: “Aged 11, the
status was abolished de jure by the             children can discern… moreover, there
Ottoman Empire (under European                  is a danger, if left with their Christian
pressure), but it still prevails de facto.      mother, that their (Islamic) faith would
    On the other hand, when a few               be ‘spoiled.’”
cartoons—however offensive they may                Numerous cases have been reported
have been—were published by a                   by the Coptic weekly paper Watani
Danish paper, it was turned into a              during 2005 and 2006.
major international crisis (in which               Reported by al-Ahram, March, 15,
Egypt played a major role), with                2006. The Coptic Church has rejected
demands to implement laws in Western            and appealed the ruling.
countries incriminating “insults” to               He ruled Egypt from 1805 to 1847.
Islam or any of its sacred figures.             The last descendant of his dynasty was
   Decree 291 of December 7, 2005.              deposed in 1954.
     The “Chart of Omar,” usually
attributed to Caliph Omar ibn al-
Khattab, is the basis of the dhimmitude
status as it stipulates several
obligations and prohibitions by
dhimmis, and concludes with: “If they
break any of their conditions, there is
no valid pact with them and they
deserve from Muslims whatever the
adversaries do.” Refer to article by
Lafif              Lakhdar               at:
   One example, reported by al-Kalema
Center for Human Rights based in
Cairo, in 2004, only 12 Copts were

102      Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 10, No. 3 (September 2006)

To top