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Egyptians outraged over some schools forcing girls to wear the hijab

A 13-year-old girl was recently forced to wear the hijab at her school in Egypt, which prompted a wave of condemnation that revealed similar practices across the country.


Al-Monitor (30.10.2020) – https://bit.ly/3mLP73K – Controversy has recently surfaced in Egypt after a 13-year-old girl was forced to wear the hijab at the school she attends in Sharqia governorate. The incident has shed light on similar cases across the country.


Lamia Loutfi, the girl’s Muslim mother and program manager at the New Woman Foundation, a human rights institution based in Cairo that provides support to female victims of violence and discrimination, filed complaints Oct. 21 against the school’s teachers over their attempts to force girls, including her daughter, to wear the hijab.


She told Al-Monitor about the incident that took place Oct. 20. She was shocked to hear her daughter telling her that school officials had forced the girls to wear the hijab, including Christian students.


Loutfi contacted the school and the director confirmed what her daughter had told her, saying that all the girls are required to wear the hijab at school as part of their uniform and are free to remove it when they leave, and that girls in other schools are required to wear the hijab, too.


When she threatened to file a complaint against the school, the director said she will not allow Loutfi’s daughter to enter the school campus unless she wears the hijab. “They told me, ‘Take whatever measures you want. We will not allow the girl to enter the school. These are our conditions,’” Loutfi said.


Article 53 of the Egyptian Constitution stipulates, “Citizens are equal before the law, possess equal rights and public duties, and may not be discriminated against on the basis of religion, belief, sex, origin, race, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographical affiliation or for any other reason.”


The hijab is an Islamic practice adopted by many women in Muslim countries. However, some Muslim women choose not to wear the veil.


This incident drew condemnation across the country, with parents launching the Arabic hashtag #forcing_girls_to_wear_the_hijab, revealing similar practices in many schools across Egypt. Some families have not opposed such practice out of fear that their children would be kicked out of school.


Hanan Noureddine, a Muslim housewife, told Al-Monitor that her two daughters, aged eight and 10, were forced to veil at the two schools they attend. “We got angry at first, but then we decided to let them wear the veil in order to avoid troubles with the school and bullying from the teachers.”


On Oct. 21, the National Council for Women filed a complaint to Minister of Education Tarek Shawki. The complaint included a plea from a mother whose daughter, along with other students, was threatened by her teachers and forced to wear the hijab under the pretext that it is part of the school’s uniform.


Kamal Mughith, an expert on educational affairs at the National Center for Educational Research and Development‎, condemned the attempts to force girls to wear the hijab at school, saying such practices deviate the attention from the school’s main role of providing education.


Speaking to Al-Monitor, Mughith stressed “the need that the education minister goes public on whether or not he supports such practices. The hijab should be a personal matter that girls themselves need to decide on, not an obligation under the pretext of a school uniform.”


Meanwhile, the New Woman Foundation circulated Oct. 21 a petition against forcing schoolgirls to wear the hijab, which dozens of institutions and public figures signed. The petition stressed the state’s obligations under the constitution to guarantee the rights of women and children to citizenship without any discrimination on the basis of gender or religion.


Shawki condemned the campaign and said that he is against forcing students to wear the hijab at school. He referred to this case as “an isolated incident” that people overreacted to. He said in a TV statement Oct. 22 that such campaigns are “similar to what the malicious channels and Egypt’s enemies do.”

Photo: A woman stands with books in front of a shelf inside the main building of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina library in the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, June 24, 2019. Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images.

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Turkish women rage against sexism with topsy-turvy tweets

Ever since last week, Turkish women have been giving their male counterparts a taste of sexist remarks by switching sex in popular sayings or political statements.


By Nazlan Ertan


Al-Monitor (10.06.2020) – https://bit.ly/2NieHhb – An unprecedented flurry of reverse sexism raised its head in Turkey’s lively Twittersphere last week. “I am a modern woman, so I help my husband with housework,” said a tweet, whilst another declared, “The greatest gift a man can offer his wife is his virginity.” Simply by switching the word “woman” with “man” and “wife” with “husband,” Turkish women — and some men — of all walks of life mocked misogynist or chauvinistic expressions, idioms, maxims and particularly political statements that discriminate against women.


“Thousands of tweets under the hashtag #menshouldknowtheirplace were witty and impactful,” Meltem Agduk, gender programme coordinator at the United Nations Population Fund in Turkey told Al-Monitor. “No wonder that some [conservative or chauvinistic] groups felt threatened by it and tried to counter it with another hashtag — #womenshouldknowtheirplace — or criticize it with media declarations. But these attempts have been futile; even after a week, the online campaign is still going strong.”


The spontaneous campaign started June 3 with a single, punchy tweet, “My husband can work if he wants” — an allusion to an often heard saying by men who try to drive home the point that they “allow” their wives to work. A 2001 legal amendment gave married women in Turkey the right to work without seeking spousal consent. But traditions, mentality and a host of legal and structural obstacles — such as the absence of child care centers and gender pay gap — prevent many women from joining the workforce. Only 34.5% of women in Turkey work, which is nearly half of the European Union average (61.4 %).


Replies to the tweet by Ruq, who now has more than 95,000 followers, poured in, repeating all-too-familiar sentences with the roles reversed: “I would never allow my husband to work, his job is to take care of my kids” and “Since we both work, I lend a hand to my husband while he does the housework. I even load and unload the dishwasher or shop on the weekends. What’s the big deal with housework anyway?”


But it was only after Gaye Su Akyol, a singer, activist and wit, started the hashtag #menshouldknowtheirplace that this initiative snowballed into a trending topic. Retweeting Ruq’s tweet, Akyol commented, “Men should be chaste. They should not laugh out loud in public.” This was a reference to a comment in 2014 by Bulent Arinc, one of the heavyweights of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) then and a notorious anti-feminist, who said that women should be chaste, act with modesty and “refrain from laughing out loud in public.”


Within hours, many women’s rights activists and Twitter users joined in creating a chronicle of headline-grabbing sexist statements by government officials or acts of violence against women. One said that a man wearing shorts on public transport is “asking to be harassed,” which alluded to a nurse who was kicked for wearing shorts on a bus in Istanbul in 2016. “Why would a decent man be out on the streets in the early hours of the morning?” joined in a male tweeter, referring to some of the statements made when a 19-year-old was threatened with a knife and raped in Istanbul’s posh Bagdat Caddesi four years ago.


Most of the political satire targeted AKP officials whose statements often border on chauvinistic and misogynist. Many users switched around President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks that motherhood was the highest honor bestowed upon women and that women who rejected motherhood were “deficient.” Others mocked the words of an ex-minister who said that family values were threatened if “men” did not know how to bake a good traditional borek.


Opposition politicians joined in the campaign. “We are going to put up men from each constituency [in key posts] so that men can start being actors in politics, not mere accessories,” tweeted Canan Kaftancioglu, the Istanbul chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Some CHP municipalities started tweeting that they were considering the launch of “blue buses” so that men can commute without harassment, mocking the AKP initiative of women-only pink buses.


Ruq was surprised by her newly-found fame. “I posted a [similar] tweet last year but nothing happened then,” she tweeted. Akyol explained that the campaign had snowballed because women have become tired of femicides, domestic violence and daily demonstrations of sexism. “We are tired of this nauseating system where the name of the murder suspect is disguised, but the morality, life and choices of the victim are questioned. … It is 2020 and we want to do something about this.”


“The initiative showed us plainly how sexism exists in the everyday life in word and deed,” Agduk noted. “It compliments, motivates and encourages other — more formal and structured — gender equality campaigns that international organizations and private groups carry out in Turkey.”


One of those groups — Koc — launched in 2017 a Manual for Gender Mainstreaming in Communications, proposing alternatives for sexist forms of speech.


“From a communicator’s point of view, this was a brilliant campaign,” agreed Zehra Gungor, a communications expert and an activist for women’s entrepreneurship. “The tweets were spontaneous, intelligent and very, very funny.” She told Al-Monitor that she had also joined with a tweet that read, “We support our male colleagues who want quotas for men in political parties.”


Not everyone was amused. While most women’s groups, such as Stop Femicides Association, applauded the campaign, Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), vice-chaired by the president’s daughter Sumeyye Erdogan Bayraktar, lambasted it, saying it was against the “values of society.” On June 9, Ismail Kilicaslan, a columnist of Yeni Safak, also blasted the initiative, saying what started “innocently” had turned into offending religion by paraphrasing certain words of the prophet. “This is a dark project,” he wrote, comparing it to the attempted coup against the government on July 15, 2016.


A feisty Akyol retorted with a tweet saying she was surely on the right path if her tweets irked conservative and chauvinistic groups. Posting an image of herself on a sunbed, she said she was toasting “to bury bigots who are disturbed [even] by the ‘f’ of freedom and the ‘w’ of woman in the dusty pages of history.”

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Actor’s revelation about transgender son sends shock waves across conservative Egypt

A prominent actor’s disclosure about his daughter’s transition has been met with a rare show of support in a conservative society with little tolerance for gender nonconformity.

By Shahira Amin

Al-Monitor (12.05.2020) – https://bit.ly/3e2VOKr – Egyptian actor Hesham Selim raised eyebrows when he disclosed in a TV interview broadcast on Al-Kahera Wal Nas Channel May 3 that his daughter, Noura, was undergoing gender transition.


“My daughter Noura is now my son Nour; it is God’s will,” the actor said. He added that he was not surprised when Nour came out as a transgender person at the age of 18. “The first time I held Noura after she was born, I could see that ‘she’ looked more like a boy than a girl. I always had doubts about ‘her’ gender identity.”


Eight years ago, Nour told his father he did not feel in harmony with his body. “It was very brave of him to speak out as we live in a society where such issues are taboo,” Selim told the show’s presenter.


In the conservative patriarchal society, few dare talk openly about gender transition because of the stigma attached to gender nonconformity. Selim nevertheless, expressed support for his son’s decision, saying, “As his father, I can only encourage him to live the life he has chosen.”


Nour, who has yet to complete his transition, is facing challenges in changing his gender designation on his national identity card, Selim said in the interview. “Things are extremely difficult for people like my son. I deeply sympathize with families that are going through such an ordeal,” he noted.


While Selim’s revelation sent shock waves across the country, it earned him more praise than criticism on social media. Many activists commended his “courage” and expressed their support for him and his son.


One Twitter user expressed doubt, however, that Selim would have gotten the same level of support had he announced that the transition was from male to female. Acknowledging Selim’s “bravery,” the activist added, “He has thrown a stone into still waters, causing ripples. His disclosure may lead people to rethink their attitudes toward transgender people.”


Members of Egypt’s transgender community celebrated Selim’s announcement as a step toward reversing the widespread antipathy toward transgender people.


“This is a remarkable step forward and a marked change signaling greater social acceptance and a more supportive environment for transgender people,” Malak el-Kashif, an outspoken transgender woman and rights activist, wrote on her Facebook page May 3.


Like many fellow members of Egypt’s LGBTQ community, Kashif has suffered discrimination, abuse and even persecution. The 20-year-old, who was registered as a boy at birth, got approval from the Egyptian Medical Syndicate to change her gender three years ago and has since performed several gender reassignment surgeries.


Kashif has gained a massive following chronicling her transition on social media and also advocates for transgenders’ rights in her articles published on the Transatsite, an Arabic-language portal dedicated to gender identity issues.


But Kashif has paid a price for her visibility, as she has been arrested three times in what she told Al-Monitor were “attempts by the authorities to silence me.” She recalled, “On one occasion in 2018, I was arrested at a checkpoint on my way to [the town of] Dahab, after the officer who searched my bag found my medical records and some dresses. I was taken into custody on the accusation of traveling with the intent of engaging in illicit sexual conduct.”


In March 2019, Kashif was arrested again — this time over a Facebook post calling for demonstrations to protest a deadly Cairo train crash that had taken place some days earlier.


“I was clearly being punished for my activism and was forced to undergo a humiliating anal examination at a public hospital,” Kashif said.


Such examinations have been denounced by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms as “a flagrant violation of privacy and human dignity” and tantamount to “torture.” Kashif, who has yet to change her gender designation on her ID card, was held for four months in solitary confinement in an all-male prison on charges including “aiding a terrorist organization” and “misusing social media by spreading false news on Facebook.”


After her release in July 2019 pending further investigations, she filed a legal complaint demanding separate cells for transgender inmates in police stations and prisons.


“Those who have not completed their transition should be separated from other prisoners to avert the risk of sexual assault at the hands of other inmates,” she said.


There has been no verdict in the case so far as the court proceedings have been postponed several times. Kashif expects yet another postponement on May 30, the scheduled date for the next court session.


Gender reassignment surgeries are legal in Egypt. In 2013, the Medical Syndicate issued a Code of Ethics recognizing gender identity disorder (GID) as a medical condition, thus paving the way for transgender patients who have GID to undergo sex change surgeries. But these surgeries were being performed in Egypt long before then. In January 1988, in a much publicized case, Sayyid Abdallah, a then-19 year-old medical student at Al-Azhar University, underwent gender reassignment surgery, transitioning to Sally. The case stirred a great deal of controversy and Sally was reportedly punished by the then-dean of the Medical Faculty who refused to admit her for the final exam or have her transferred to the Medical Faculty for girls. The Medical Syndicate accused the surgeon who performed the operation of committing “a grave error.”


Today — more than three decades later — perceptions of gender transition have not changed much — the procedure is still largely frowned upon as “sinful” and “tampering with God’s creation.” That perception may have been shaped by the Islamic hadith citing that “God has cursed effeminate men who imitate women.” Former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, however, affirmed in a 2014 TV interview broadcast on the Egyptian CBC channel that “it is a duty for transgender persons — and their families — to correct their gender to end their state of confusion.”


The surgery is only permissible for hermaphrodites (those with male and female reproductive organs), Gomaa said, adding that it is forbidden in cases of a person choosing to behave or look like the opposite sex but only has the traits of his or her birth gender.


Gomaa’s view was reiterated by Dar al-Iftaa, the authority that issues religious edicts, in response to a question by Al-Monitor (via its hotline) on whether such surgeries are halal (permissible). “If a medical specialist decides that the surgery is in the patient’s interest and is necessary to protect him or her from harm, then it is permissible. But it is forbidden in cases where there are no medical grounds and a man simply desires to become a woman or vice versa,” an Iftaa cleric said.


Up until 2016, transgender people were able to undergo gender reassignment surgeries at public hospitals without charge. This is no longer the case and “permits for such surgeries are now harder to obtain,” Hashem Bahary, a professor of psychiatry at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor in a telephone interview.


A sex correction committee — made up of a psychiatrist, a medical expert from the Medical Syndicate and a cleric from the Ministry of Endowments — had met periodically to review requests for gender transitions and approve or reject them on a case-by-case basis. But the committee has not convened since early 2016, leaving those wishing to change their gender with no option but to turn to private hospitals and clinics.


“Many private clinics take advantage of trans patients’ desperation, charging exorbitant fees — sometimes for botched surgeries,” Mozn Hassan, a women’s rights activist and founder of Nazra for Feminist Studies, told Al-Monitor.


A gender reassignment surgery costs in the range of 25,000 Egyptian pounds (around $1,600), according to Bahary, who said that the surgeries are beyond the means of the average Egyptian. Al-Azhar’s Psychiatric Center, which had offered transgender patients psychological support for nearly two decades, was shut down in 2017 at the behest of Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, according to Bahary, who said he continues to offer his LGBTQ patients free mental health services at his private clinic.


Transition is a complex and tedious process in Egypt, often taking several years to complete. It involves two years of psychological treatment, medical tests and approvals by religious authorities and medical specialists.


“After completion of the transition, a report is submitted by forensic experts to the Interior Ministry requesting permission for the change in gender designation on ID cards,” Bahary said.


Waad Mohamed Ahmed (nicknamed Cinderella ), a 28-year-old Alexandria-based lawyer, has been more fortunate than most. Identified as a boy at birth, she performed her first gender reassignment surgery five years ago at a private hospital at her own expense. She then underwent a second surgery at Kasr el-Eini public hospital in Cairo. It took several months to change her gender status on her ID card after approval from forensic experts. “The worst time for me was before the transition. I was ostracized by my family and was persistently sexually harassed on the street,” she told Al-Monitor.


Her biggest concern today is finding a suitable marriage partner. “When men who are attracted to me learn about my past, they shy away,” she said.


In a society with little tolerance for gender variance, the biggest challenge for transgender Egyptians is gaining societal acceptance.


“Selim’s disclosure about his son’s transition is a milestone in transgender Egyptians’ fight for recognition and respect,” Hassan said. “Not only has he broken a longstanding taboo, but he has also brought to public attention the dire need to integrate this marginalized minority group into the mainstream.”

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LGBTQ association achieves major legal milestone in Tunisia

By Amel al-Hilali


Al-Monitor (10.03.2020) – https://bit.ly/33mhhcS – In a first for Tunisia and the Arab world, Shams, an association founded in early 2015 to defend LGBTQ rights, was granted legal protection in a ruling handed down Feb. 21 by Tunisia’s Court of Cassation following the state’s attempts to shut down the organization.


In December 2015, Kamel Hedhili, head of state litigation, had filed a complaint against the organization, resulting in the Court of First Instance suspending the association’s activities for 30 days beginning Jan. 4, 2016. Hedhili’s charged that the association had violated the Decree of Associations and had failed to complete the legal registration procedures, ostensibly because its registration was rejected for publication in the Official Gazette, a decision made by the government and over which Shams had no control. In addition, he asserted that the organization violates the Arab-Islamic norms of Tunisian society because it advocates and defends sodomy, which is a criminal act under Chapter 230 of the Penal Code.


The Decree of Associations (2011) stipulates that associations in their statute, activity, and financing, shall respect the principles of the rule of law, democracy, pluralism, transparency, equality and human rights. It also prohibits them from advocating or involvement in violence, hatred, intolerance and discrimination on religious, sexual or regional grounds. According to Hedhili, Sham’s violated the decree because its defense of the rights of homosexuals represents sexuality-based discrimination.


On Feb. 23, 2016, the Court of First Instance ruled that Shams “does not violate the law” and allowed it to resume its activities. After addition judicial procedures and postponements, Hedhili challenged that ruling on Feb. 20, 2019, on the grounds that the association’s bylaws state that its goal is to defend sexual minorities, which, he said, is inconsistent with “the Islamic values of Tunisian society, which rejects homosexuality and prohibits such inappropriate behavior,” on the basis of Chapter 230 of the penal code.


Three days later, Amna Guellali, Tunisia director at Human Rights Watch, called on the government to stop its legal battle against Shams, especially after the ruling clearing the association of breaking any law and allowing it to continue functioning.


On May 20, 2019, the Court of Appeals rejected the appeal lodged by Hedhili, ruling in favor of Shams resuming its activities, and then last month, the Court of Cassation, the final arbiter in Tunisia’s legal system, issued its opinion on Sham’s legality.


Speaking to Al-Monitor, Shams executive director Bouhdid Belhedi called the ruling in favor of the association “a victory for the individual rights and freedoms and the civil character of the state established in the country’s constitution.”


He lamented the long, drawn out attempt by the government “maliciously” trying to stop Sham’s activities, noting that the association’s objective is to support sexual minorities “providing financial, emotional and psychological assistance and securing them a safe environment, regardless of their sexual orientation.”


Belhedi stressed that the association will work to abolish Chapter 230 of the Penal Code, which calls for three years in prison for people convicted of sodomy. He also said that Shams, in coordination with human rights organizations, seeks to abolish the practice of authorities ordering “anal examinations” for men arrested on suspicion of having had same-sex sexual relations.


In October 2018, a number of MPs had spoken about coordinating with civil associations in drafting a law decriminalizing homosexuality and prohibiting anal examinations, but no such law has been presented for consideration.


According to Bochra Belhaj Hmida, a former parliamentarian and chairperson of the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee — created in August 2017 by President Beji Caid Essebsi to report on proposed legislative reforms on private and public rights and freedoms — the judiciary’s decision in favor of Shams is a “legal and judicial revolution” in post-revolution Tunisia.


Hmida told Al-Monitor how proud she was, as a human rights activist, that the judiciary had shown itself to be independent, free of political pressure, in handing an association defending gay rights a victory by legalizing its presence. Hmida stressed that the decision is a positive first step in that efforts at decriminalizing homosexuality and abolishing anal examinations can now be pursued within the framework of the jurisprudence of that case.


With this legal victory, Shams joins other LGBTQ associations in Muslim-majority countries in the region that have defied prevailing social attitudes in pursuit of human rights. In another example, in Turkey, 17 Mayis (17 May) was established at the end of February to defend the rights of the country’s LGBTQ community. Its name refers to May 17, 1990, when the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental illness.

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Is Salafism making a comeback in Egypt?

By Rami Galal


AL-MONITOR (26.08.2019) – https://bit.ly/2lznUqq – Egypt’s Ministry of Religious Endowments granted on Aug. 7, for the first time since 2014, Vice President of the Salafist Call Sheikh Yasser Borhami a preaching permit for Friday sermons between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31 at Al-Kholafaa Al-Rashdeen Mosque in Alexandria.


Borhami has repeatedly sparked controversy in the past with the fatwas he issues, including one barring Muslims from sending holiday greetings to Coptic Christians, another banning people from watching soccer games and one forbidding children from decorating their bedrooms with Disney character posters.


The Ministry of Religious Endowments issued a law in June 2014, according to which only imams who are graduates of Al-Azhar University are authorized to preach, and only after passing an interview with the nationwide endowments directorates affiliated with the ministry, which in turn issue the preaching permits.


The permit granted to Borhami includes seven instructions he must follow: First, he must abide by the unified sermon imposed by the Ministry of Religious Endowments, as per its July 2014 decision. Also, Borhami must abide by the Ash’ari doctrine, a moderate Islamic school of thought adopted by Al-Azhar. Second, his sermon must not exceed 15-20 minutes.


Borhami must not address any political or controversial issue in his sermon and no fatwas shall be pronounced in mosques. In addition, no religious lessons shall be given other than the Friday sermon preapproved by the ministry. Borhami must abide by the instructions issued by the ministry. He is also not allowed to move from one mosque to another unless there is prior approval from the director of the endowments directorate, the director of the department of preaching permits at the ministry and the area inspector appointed by the ministry to monitor preaching across the country. Finally, the permit shall also be considered personal property and must be preserved.


The return of Borhami to preaching has raised many questions and criticism from secular citizens in Egypt, such as intellectual Khaled Montaser, and from parliamentarians such as Nadia Henry. This is mainly because Borhami’s fatwas in the past promoted hostility toward Copts, and he has not apologized for them. Meanwhile, Samir Sabry, a prominent Egyptian lawyer, filed a complaint against Sheikh Mohammed Khashaba, undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments in Alexandria, who granted Borhami the preaching permit.


In this regard, Abdul Moneim Shahat, the spokesman of the Salafist Call, told Al-Monitor, “Borhami holds a bachelor’s degree in Islamic studies from Al-Azhar University, and he applied in this capacity for the preaching permit before the Ministry of Religious Endowments, not in his capacity as deputy head of the Salafist Call. The Ministry of Religious Endowments does not deal with organizations such as the Salafist Call, but deals with each person as an individual by assessing them to ensure they meet the conditions required to obtain a preaching permit.”


Shahat noted, “The new measure taken by the ministry now includes its instructions — which were repeatedly published before — in the permit. What I am not sure of is whether the ministry decided on generalizing this measure to all permits, or whether it was something specific to Sheikh Borhami. But the instructions are not new, and there are no specific instructions that were only formulated for Borhami.”


He added, “The existence of a peaceful Salafist movement that rejects bloodshed and respects the tacit understandings [reached] with non-Muslims is the first guarantee to curb the spread of violence and takfiri [extremist] orientations.”


The Salafist Call was founded in Egypt in 1977. At first, its activities were limited to social and preaching work, and it refused to participate in political life. Meanwhile, the security forces were lenient toward the Salafist Call, compared to other Islamist movements, because it [the Salafist Call] did not seek to reach power and its presence undermined the Muslim Brotherhood’s monopolization of the Islamist current in the country.


But after the January 25 Revolution the situation changed. The Salafist Call formed its political wing, the Nour Party, which won 112 out of 508 seats in parliament in the 2012 legislative elections. After June 30, 2013, the movement faced increasing calls to dissolve it under the pretext that it is a religious party despite supporting the revolution. The army, however, rejected those calls as the dissolution of the Salafist Call would have changed the balance of power among Islamist currents. And thus, although the Salafist Call still enjoys political support, it came under harsh media campaigns, and ultimately faced a setback in the 2015 parliamentary elections, winning only 12 seats out of 596.


Ahmed Karima, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor, “I feel that Salafism is being swept out of Saudi Arabia to be settled in Egypt with the help of international parties and forces that do not want stability in Egypt. And while Al-Azhar University professors are not allowed to speak out and preach, Borhami, the author of radical fatwas and patron of Salafism in Egypt, is granted this permit.”


Often professors who oppose the current regime in Egypt do not receive their preaching permits from the Ministry of Religious Endowments despite meeting the conditions.


There is a tendency today to get rid of Salafism in Saudi Arabia. Several Salafist preachers, fearing the campaigns led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have fled to Egypt and settled mainly in Alexandria, the stronghold of Salafism in Egypt.


Karima added, “Salafists led by Borhami consider all Muslims [Sufis and Shiites] who do not adhere to their ideology as apostates, and accuse Al-Azhar of corrupt beliefs for following Ash’ari doctrine. Salafism spread in Egypt through Gulf funds and the movement managed to create bases for extremist thought through [media] channels. For example, Sheikh Mohammed Hassan — a leading Salafist preacher — is building a 30-acre Islamic complex in 6th of October City, with nurseries to teach children the principles of Salafism. Salafism is not a threat to Al-Azhar, but a threat to Islam.”


Secretary of the parliamentary Religious Committee Amr Hamroush told Al-Monitor, “I strongly condemn the recent decision by the Ministry of Religious Endowments to grant a preaching permit to Borhami — even if such permit was for a month or subject to restrictions — because this man did not apologize for past extremist fatwas. Borhami’s thoughts have not changed, even if he pretends to abide by the provisions of the Ministry of Religious Endowments to be able to preach. Therefore, I ask the ministry to reconsider this permit and withdraw it.”


HRWF Comment: The Salafist ideology, a totalitarian ideology


The Salafist movement is often divided into three categories: the purists (or quietists), the activists and the jihadists.


“Purist Salafists” focus on non-violent preaching of Islam, education, and “purification of religious beliefs and practices”. They dismiss politics as “a diversion or even innovation that leads people away from Islam”. They never oppose their rulers, even in autocratic regimes.


“Activist Salafists”, unlike the “purists” are engaged in political processes. They advocate political reform but eschew violence. Due to numerical superiority, the movement has been referred to as the mainstream of the Salafist movement at times.


“Jihadist Salafists” began developing an interest in armed jihad during the mid-1990s. According to Mohammed M. Hafez, a specialist on foreign fighters and suicide bombers, Salafi jihadism is an “extreme form of Sunni Islamism that rejects democracy and Shia rule.”


Despite some similarities, the different contemporary self-proclaimed Salafist groups often strongly disapprove of one another and deny the other’s true Islamic character.


The three branches of Salafism share the same totalitarian ideology, the one implemented by ISIS and like-minded armed movements. They share the same objective: to impose a totalitarian system of governance.



See HRWF paper: “Islamic Minorities, A New Challenge to Religious Freedom” presented at the conference Religions and Human Rights” held by the University of Padua in April 2016.


Watch Aljazeera Video Debate: What is wrong with Islam today?

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