By Ramadan Al-Fatash Jan 5, 2012, 13:33 GMT
Cairo - On learning that a radical Muslim group seeks to set up morality police in Egypt, Amr Samir, a TV scriptwriter, has vowed to kill any vigilante who might approach him or his family to check that their behaviour and clothes comply with Islamic rules.
’If the day comes when a person stops me and my family in the street to ask me how far we are related, or if he dares make remarks about the way they are dressed, I would kill him without hesitation,’ Samir wrote on his Facebook page. ’I have just bought a gun, just in case,’ he added.
Last month, a previously unknown organization, calling itself the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Egypt, posted a statement on the internet, calling on volunteers to join it for enforcing the Islamic sharia (law) in the predominantly Muslim country.
The statement carried a logo of Al-Nour, an ultra-conservative Islamist party that has made unprecedented gains in Egypt’s parliamentary election.
Al-Nour hurried to disassociate itself from the group, claiming it was an attempt by rivals to distort its image in the eyes of the public.
According to the Committee, its mission is to enforce Islamic dress codes, prevent unrelated males and females from staying together in public, and make sure stores are closed during prayer times.
The controversial bid is obviously inspired by Saudi Arabia, which adopts a puritanical version of Islam, known as Wahabism.
The Saudi religious police, locally known as Mutaween, have been functioning for many years. They are legalized and funded by the government in the oil-rich Gulf country.
This is unlikely to happen in Egypt, according to Emad Gad, a political analyst.
’Such a practice is alien to the nature of Egyptians, who highly value personal freedoms,’ Gad told dpa.
’Egypt is a country with a long history of central state institutions. The state authorities will not allow this to happen here in Egypt,’ said Gad, an expert at the state-run Al Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.
There has been yet no comment from the military government, which has been in control of Egypt since a popular uprising forced long-standing president Hosny Mubarak to resign last February.
The only reaction came from Al-Azhar, Egypt’s official Muslim institution, which sharply criticized the proposed religious police, calling it an illegal attempt to ’usurp’ that group’s centuries-old role.
’Al-Azhar is the only Islamic reference in Egypt and has been undertaking this mission for more than 1,000 years,’ the Sunni Muslim world’s oldest seat of learning said in a statement.
’Creating such an agency (religious police) also infringes the state powers,’ added Al-Azhar, following an emergency meeting in Cairo.
The Committee was quick to criticize Al-Azhar.
’Al-Azhar’s statement includes false accusations against the Committee, as millions of Egyptians have already approved its creation,’ the group said Thursday on its Facebook page.
’The fact that millions of the people have voted for the Salafists in (parliamentary) election provides yet another strong proof that Egyptians want to see the sharia properly enforced,’ added the group.
The rise of the Islamists in post-Mubarak Egypt has triggered worries among the country’s Christian minority and liberals.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist group, and the Salafists are expected to wield a comfortable majority in the new parliament when full results of the vote are announced later in January.
However, Gad, the political analyst, rules out the possibility that an Islamist-dominated parliament will approve the creation of religious police in Egypt.
’Even if the Salafists backed the idea, the Muslim Brotherhood would shun it because it would undermine their declared support for the creation of a civil state in Egypt,’ he argued.