Two days ago the Egyptian armed forces stopped demonstrators demanding the liberation of Jerusalem and trying to cross the Sinai desert from continuing their advance to the border with Israel and Egyptian security forces prevented demonstrators from advancing toward the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Despite the failure of the demonstrators, we witnessed the first test of new Egypt's foreign policy toward Israel. The Syrian authorities, on the other hand, opened the Golan to demonstrators against the Israeli occupation in the hope of winning over Syrian and Arab public opinion, The Egyptian leadership, however, ignored public opinion. Perhaps it is worried that the price would be higher than political propaganda. We should keep in mind that Egypt had made many concessions, such as the detention of former President Mubarak, his two sons, his spouse, and senior members of his regime. However, the unsuccessful attempts will not put an end to the demands of some Egyptians who wish to repeal all the agreements that the Mubarak and Al-Sadat regimes signed with Israel over the past four decades. Popular pressure on the government and the military council will increase to make more concessions. Otherwise, the people will descend on the Al-Tahrir Square to change the regime once again.
Can the current temporary Egyptian leadership or the future one repeal the Camp David Accords and risk war with Israel? Legally, Egypt cannot do so unless it decides to fight militarily to hold on to the gains of the agreement without its obligations. If Israel remained silent at the closure of its embassy in Cairo, it will not allow the advance of Egyptian troops to the Sinai and that will inevitably lead to war between the two countries. I do not envision this to happen even if an Islamic group, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, wins the presidency and the majority of the parliament seats. I mean that it is unlikely that any future leadership in Egypt, regardless of its color and slogans, would be prepared to wage war on Israel. For another 10 years, Egypt's economy would not be strong enough to bear the cost of an open-ended military front. In the past, the world was divided into two camps and Egypt was the most prominent ally of the Soviet Union that was ready to finance any confrontation against the enemy camp. Egypt's domestic economic burdens were also lighter in the early 1970s when the population of Egypt was half what it is at present. Successive Mubarak governments failed to rein in the population explosion lest they anger the street, and so the population grew. It has become the biggest danger threatening the country's national security.
There are no prospects for war between Cairo and Tel Aviv unless a new situation generated by the new revolutionary conditions arises, such as if the elections divide the Egyptian street acutely and turn the opposition into a key player that would drive the ruling regime to adopt popular decisions at the expense of the supreme interests. It is certain that the pressures and propaganda against the Camp David Accords will continue. However, the Egyptian opposition is aware that it will not able to persuade its people to open a front with Israel at a time when the Palestinians, the rightful owners of the issue, have closed the fronts with Israel. This is particularly true since the balance of forces is not in Egypt's favor.
[Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/]
One on one with Salafi leader Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat (Part 1)
GMP20110519966053 Cairo Daily News Egypt Online in English 0845 GMT 19 May 11
[Collected by webscraper and Auto selected and released without editorial intervention.]
TITLE: One on one with Salafi leader Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat (Part 1)
AUTHOR: Tamim Elyan / Daily News Egypt
(DAILY NEWS EGYPT) -
ALEXANDRIA: Following the January 25 Revolution, Salafi groups became the subject of social and political debates as some accused them of taking advantage of the newfound freedom to voice their aspirations for a religious state.
They are often accused of inciting sectarian tension and their increased activity stirred controversy especially among liberal political streams.
Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat, a prominent Salafi scholar and the spokesperson for the Salafi movement in Egypt, sat with Daily News Egypt to explain the movement's vision of its political and social role after the revolution and its views on a number of controversial issues.
DNE: How were Salafis treated by the ousted regime? And how was State Security involved in cracking down on the Salafi movement?
Al-Shahat: Egyptian security put a plan for every Islamic group; for Salafis, a group that is based on preaching and education, we were subject to regular and intermittent crackdowns. Every Salafi was subject to a surprise visit to State Security more than once every year just for growing his beard.
Those who were active members were subject to detention for weeks and sometimes years, while those who were involved in activities, no matter how peaceful they are, that State Security was unfamiliar with were subject to torture until all the information is gathered.
What is the difference between Salafis and other Islamic movements?
Salafi ideology is built on reforming society from its base by educating its members on faith and then integrating them in activities serving the society. We had differences with other Islamic movements since our establishment in the 1970s because we are strict in our commitment to pure practice.
We opposed the Takfeer Wa Al-Hijra [an extremist religious group] because they swerved from the authentic beliefs because they adopted changing the wrong by force ... we are different from the Muslim Brotherhood in our views of the legitimacy of political participation.
Salafi movement stayed away from politics since their establishment and even refused to participate at demonstrations but now they are reconsidering the issue, what changed after the January 25 Revolution?
We considered that political participation within the old political scene involves validating an invalid situation and compromising; we want to apply complete Islamic ideologies although we would be satisfied with any positive developments in this matter not necessarily complete application.
We accepted participation in student unions and syndicate elections but we gave it up in favor of the MB for their political experience. However, we refused to participate in legislative elections because we refused to join a council that gives itself the right to issue legislations not based on Islamic Sharia, we would not compromise and we saw it ineffective.
We also saw that demonstrations are useless; they are either too peaceful or too confrontational and in both cases they lead to no results and sometimes un-Islamic slogans were imposed on us.
During the revolution, we found that the situation has changed after a large number of youth from different streams came together in peaceful demonstrations which didn't adopt any slogans at all.
Now there is a great motivation for political participation since it is a phase of drafting a new constitution and there is a stream that wants it a liberal constitution while we want it a constitution that preserves the Islamic identity of the country.
We saw that all the reasons for refusing to participate are now nonexistent, since parliament cannot issue legislations that contradict with Islamic Sharia according to the second article of the constitution. There is also a certain level of freedom in the media that [encouraged our participation] although we were attacked severely … so we decided to participate in the political life but will keep the preaching nature of the movement.
Will you form political parties?
We expect those who carry the Salafi ideology with a political vision but aren't involved in preaching activities to launch a political party or more and we will support them within our support to the Islamic stream in general whether the MB or independent candidates who adopt the Islamic ideology.
Al-Noor Party, whose founder is Emad Abdel Ghafour, a former member of the Salafi movement, is the closest to this vision.
Will you field candidates in the legislative elections?
We want to distance ourselves from managing the political process but we will give our members the freedom to support the best candidate.
What about the presidential elections?
We put three criteria that we require in the next president; to be a supporter of the idea of preserving the Islamic identity of the country, competency and fairness. All candidates now are possible candidates, we will wait until the candidacy door is closed and will decide whether to support a certain candidate or leave it up to the group members to decide who they will vote for based on our criteria.
[Description of Source: Cairo Daily News Egypt Online in English -- Independent, privately owned newspaper providing news and analysis, Egypt's only independent English-language daily. The paper is distributed in Egypt with the International Herald Tribune (IHT); URL: http://www.thedailynewsegypt.com/]
US-Jailed Egyptian Clerics Family Asks Authorities To Intervene for His Release
GMP20110603825006 London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic 03 Jun 11
[Report from Cairo by Muhammad Abd-al-Rauf: The Family of Umar Abd-al-Rahman Asks the Egyptian Prime Minister to Intervene for His Release]
The family of Shaykh Umar Abd-al-Rahman, spiritual father of the Islamic Group, held a protest outside the headquarters of the Council of Ministers in central Cairo yesterday, calling for the Egyptian authorities' intervention to secure the release of the blind shaykh who has been serving a life sentence in US jails since 1993 after he was convicted in the case of the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993.
Dr Abdallah, son of Umar Abd-al-Rahman, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat: "An official at the US Embassy told me that the Egyptian Government has not sent any request to Washington for the release of the shaykh. When we asked for an explanation from the public prosecution office, we learned that no official request has been made to date."
He added: "Therefore, we decided to organize a protest outside the headquarters of the Council of Ministers to call on Dr Isam Sharaf, the prime minister, to intervene to secure the release of the shaykh."
Dr Abdallah said: "We met with an official at the prime ministry yesterday and handed him a memorandum asking the Egyptian Government to intervene with the US Administration for the release of my father."
He noted that the family of the shaykh previously met with officials of the (ruling) Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt and submitted to them an application for the release of the shaykh. He added that they also met with US Embassy officials in Cairo for the same purpose and that the grand Imam Dr Ahmad al-Tayyib, rector of Al-Azhar, launched an initiative for the release of Umar Abd-al-Rahman.
Abdallah Umar Abd-al-Rahman said that these moves helped resume the monthly telephone calls that his father places to his family after these calls stopped for 45 days after the "25 January revolution." He added that these calls are now made every 15 days.
He said the shaykh has been in hunger strike for three days now and refused to take medicine to show support for his family's protests in Egypt and to express his rejection of the US Administration's harsh practices against him, including keeping him in solitary confinement for 18 years and leaving him to wash his clothes by himself, even though he is crippled and uses a wheelchair.
Abd-al-Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in the Colorado Prison in North Carolina after he was convicted of involvement in the 1993 New York bombings. The Egyptian judiciary acquitted him of the charge of involvement in the assassination of Al-Sadat in 1981 after holding him in custody for three years at the time. From his prison, he announced his support for the Islamic Group's initiative to halt violence in Egypt in 1997.
[Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/]
Egypt: Islamic Group To Implement 'New Look,' Plan Enter Twitter, Facebook
GMP20110606013002 Cairo Nahdat Misr in Arabic 06 Jun 11 p 1
[Report by Taha al-Isawi: "Leading Figure Reveals to Nahdat Misr the Group's 'New Look' and Future Plan of Movement. The Group To Penetrate Universities without Jalabiyahs and Beards. The Instructions: 'Go out of Mosques and Wear Modern Clothes. Exploit the Internet and Beware of the Fangs of the Liberals'"]
In an attempt exploit the fluid state the Egyptian society suffers after the revolution, the leaders of Al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah [Islamic Group] have approved a plan to give a "new look" to the group's members. This relies on abandoning the jalabiyah [traditional flowing Arab robe worn by Salafis] and the beards, wearing modern clothes, coming out with their da'wah [advocacy] from mosques to cafes, universities, schools, and public places and penetrating social networking sites.
A leading figure who requested anonymity said the group's leaders have asked members to set up personal accounts on the Facebook and Twitter and to post promotional films about the group's leaders on the YouTube.
The source said the group's leaders asked the members to "move freely everywhere" with their advocacy in all places, as they put it, taking advantage of the unstable conditions society suffers from since the revolution. They were urged to use easy-to-understand programs and simplified books that are devoid of extremism.
They were warned against following the approach of some hard-line Salafis. The leaders proposed that an institute be set up to groom the group's leaders on the pattern of some other Islamic movements so that the advocates would be well-versed in the approach to advocacy and means of conveying it and dealing with others.
The source said the leaders asked the group's youths in universities to evolve and imitate the youths of the Muslim Brotherhood by distributing booklets and gifts to the students and providing services to them through the setting up of small libraries inside universities. They were asked to organize seminars to which they would invite the group's leaders and other Islamists and politicians in general in order to attract the largest number of students. Universities were identified the as the principal bulwark and the real beginning, with emphasis placed on targeting the best and most excellent students and winning their favor.
"Our leaders stressed that the group's members should not participate in any sectarian incidents and should not intervene in them at all no matter what happens, even if some of the sides are right," he said. "There are quarters lurking for us and waiting to exploit any stands, especially the sectarian sedition incidents which will ruin the future of the group if they slip into them and will hit them fatally as they have hit the Salafis. Even though the State does not have strong fangs now, the fangs of the liberal, secular, and Communist forces are sharper and more devastating than the State's fangs despite the tools, influence, foreign relations, and media outlets it has."
The source said the group's leaders warned against activities undertaken clandestinely or in any way that raises suspicions. Members were urged to stick to public and peaceful methods.
[Description of Source: Cairo Nahdat Misr in Arabic -- Independent pro-reform daily newspaper with an editorial line moderately critical of the government; focuses on domestic affairs.]
Report on Views, Ambitions of Egypt's First Salafi Political Party 'Al-Nur'
GMP20110616007002 Cairo Al-Wafd in Arabic 16 Jun 11 p 4
Last Sunday's approval by the Committee on Party Affairs of the founding of the Salafi Al-Nur Party was nothing other than an announcement from the party's founders and leaders of an intellectual revolution against the ideas of the Salafi call, which had followed a path of secrecy since the foundation of the Salafi preaching school in Alexandria early in the seventies of the last century. For the space of four decades, the school had forbidden participation in political or party activity or rebelling against the ruler even if he were unjust. What happened at the beginning of the January 25 revolution -- the Salafi call's lack of participation in it -- only confirmed the method of the movement, which supported any ruling regime that came to power in Egypt.
The emergence of the Salafis from underground, their farewell to the secrecy that they practiced for a period of 40 years, and their founding of the Salafi Al-Nur Party, which the Committee on Party Affairs has approved have given the impression in the mind of many who follow the Salafi movement that the well-known Machiavellian principle of the end's justifying the means is what forced them to abandon political secrecy and announce that they would engage in public politics in an attempt to reap political gains in the wake of the revolution by obtaining a number of parliamentary seats for the first time in the Salafis' history.
Since the party's founding this March in Alexandria, the Al-Nur Party, which is headed by Dr Imad-al-Din Abd-al-Ghafur [as printed in source], the Salafi leader and agent for the party's founders, has not been averse to including a number of Copts among its membership -- 40 thus far -- and a number of women. The latter form half of the members who have joined the party to date. This in fact is the message that the party's founder wanted to send to those who criticized and attacked them upon the announcement of party's formation. The message was that they would not be hostile to the Copts or to any religious denomination in Egyptian society. It was a message meant to bring feelings of reassurance to a large number of people fearful of political activity by the Salafis.
The platform of the Al-Nur Party, which was proposed at the beginning of this week, has filled some people with amazement because of its middle-of-the-road, moderate ideas, far from religious bigotry and from hostility or exclusion of Copts. It did not put forward ideas of the extreme cast that one finds in many members of the Salafi current, such as the founders of the Coalition to Support New Muslims, who have come out with ideas marked by a pattern of hostility to Copts as well as to their political antagonists.
The Al-Nur Party sprang from the womb of Alexandria's Salafi Preaching School, led and headed by Dr Yasir Burhami, Shaykh Muhammad Abd-al-Fattah Abu-Idris, and Shaykh Isma'il al-Muqaddam. Most of the party's members therefore are youths of the Salafi School in Alexandria. Nevertheless, the party's membership lacks the leading figures of the Salafi current in Alexandria: Burhami and the shaykhs of the Salafi call have refused to become involved in political party activity, preferring to continue their religious call activity without the restriction of joining a political party.
The political ambitions of the leaders of the Al-Nur Party increased in the wake of the announcement by the Committee on Party Affairs that it had approved the party's establishment. A few hours after the party's approval , Dr Imad-al-Din Abd-al-Ghaffar announced that he would enter the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held this September. He stated that his party would nominate an as-yet-undefined number of candidates to compete for a number of parliamentary seats, doing so in coordination with all existing political forces, whether these be liberal, communist, or any political forces present on the political scene.
Party leader Abd-al-Ghaffar's ambitions don't stop there. He announced to Al-Wafd al-Usbu'i [Al-Wafd Weekly] that his party w ould enter the presidential election after the next and would compete for the office of president. In the minds of some people this caused increased fears of the rise of Salafi influence in the wake of the revolution and the growth of their dream to come closer to political power in Egypt.
Thus far, more than 7,000 members have joined the Al-Nur Party. Some 3,000 of them are women, in addition to 40 Copts. This has caused some people to think it likely that the Salafis are making use of the idea of "prudent dissimulation" (takiyah) and of the Machiavellian idea of the end's justifying the means, particularly after the party's abandonment of the open hostility to Copts and the constant attacks on them on the official web site of the Salafi Call in Alexandria, Sawt al-Salaf, which frequently launched attacks on Copts and on certain leaders of the church.
The Al-Nur Party's success in reaching and penetrating most of Egypt's cities and governorates only three months since the announcement of its establishment is confirmation that the party will not rely only on young people from the Salafi Call in Alexandria.
The attack that the agent of the founders of the Salafi Al-Fadilah party launched on the Salafi Al-Nur Party met with a counterattack by Dr Muhammad Yusri Salamah, the Al-Nur Party's media spokesman. He indicated that the Al-Nur Party would not begin its journey by maligning any Salafi figures. He stated that Khalid Sa'id's accusation was not correct, and he supported this by the fact that the party included members from all of Egypt's governorates, not only young Salafis from Alexandria, as Khalid Sa'id charged.
Yusri indicated that the Al-Nur Party had been unable to include such Salafi shaykhs as Shaykh Muhammad Hassan or Muhammad Husayn Ya'qub. This, he said, was because the Al-Nur Party was not a religious elementary school or a school for memorizing the Koran, but a political party. He said that anyone who wanted to join the Al-Nur Party should join it for its platform and ideas, not because a famous preacher had joined the party.
The presence of Copts and women as members of the Al-Nur Party has caused some people to ask how willing the party is to allow them to run for high offices such as president of the republic. The surprise that Dr Imad-al-Din Abd-al-Ghaffar unleashed to Al-Wafd al-Usbu'i is that Copts and women would be allowed to run for any office, even the presidency. He pointed out that the Egyptian constitution treated women and men, Muslims and Copts, as equal in rights and duties, and so they had the right to run for the presidency.
The riddles and coded messages that the party has issued since its establishment and the heavy-gauge surprises it has fired off about allowing women and Copts to run for the presidency have been the subject of decoding attempts by Dr Nabil Abd-al-Fattah, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He noted that the Salafis have been spreading in the vacuums arising from the agreements that their leaders had made with the security apparatus during the rule of now deposed President Husni Mubarak, who made the Salafis part of alliances and agreements with the security agencies in order to use them in confronting and halting the radical Islamic groups who were involved in a bloody conflict with the regime -- such as Al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah [the Islamic Group] and Tanzim al-Jihad [the Jihad Organization]. He indicated that the Salafis had supported the regime's legitimacy on the basis of being loyal to the ruler even if he is unjust. This tendency, he stated, continued until the fall of the regime. Some Salafis have therefore tried to dominate the street quickly, so as not to be negatively affected by a revolution in which they had not participated.