Maybe Egypt is starting to get it?


July 27, 2005, 08:34 PM

In Egypt, Many Question Whether Their Own Culture Is to Blame for Terror Attacks

By Nadia Abou El-Magd Associated Press Writer
Published: Jul 27, 2005

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Stunned by terror attacks in a Red Sea resort, Egyptians are in a remarkably frank debate about whether mosques and schools - and the government itself - should be blamed for promoting Islamic extremism.
Even pro-government media say authorities have created a climate where young people are turning into radicals and suicide bombers.

In a country more used to hearing general condemnations of terrorism, critics on Wednesday were angry - and specific - hammering at instances where they say the government let state media and mosque preachers, including many appointed by the government, to promote intolerance.

At one mosque in Cairo, some worshippers objected to prayers for the dead and missing after Saturday's bombings in Sharm el-Sheik because some victims were likely non-Muslims, said the editor of the government weekly Al-Musawwar.

Another columnist pointed to a weekly column in the government Al-Ahram daily by a religious scholar, Zaghloul al-Naggar, who explains science by using the Quran. After December's tsunami in the Indian Ocean, he went on Arab television and called the devastation God's revenge on Westerners engaged in vice.

The debate since Sharm has been a deepening of the soul-searching that has gone on across the Arab world in recent years over whether religious interpretations need reform in the face of terror attacks by Muslim radicals.

The debate began, hesitantly, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. And the voices have grown with each act of terrorism - particularly ones in the Middle East. A series of attacks in Saudi Arabia in 2003 forced that country to begin taking action against extremist thought.

The 2004 Madrid bombings increased calls for change among Muslims in Europe and the Mideast. After the July 7 suicide bombings in London, Britain's largest Sunni group issued a binding religious edict, known as a fatwa, condemning the attack.

Egypt has been hit this month by a double blow: the kidnapping and slaying of its top envoy in Iraq by Islamic militants and the bomb blasts that ripped through Sharm, killing as many as 88 people - the vast majority of them Egyptians.

What was unusual about the self-criticism after Sharm was that it came from government media - and even from within the Islamic clerical hierarchy picked by the government.

"There is no use denying. ... We incited the crime of Sharm el-Sheik," ran a bold red headline of a lead editorial Wednesday by Al-Musawwar's editor in chief, Abdel-Qader Shohaib.

The bombers "didn't just conjure up in our midst suddenly, they are a product of a society that produces extremist fossilized minds that are easy to be controlled," Shohaib wrote.

"They became extremists through continuous incitement for extremism which we have allowed to exist in our societies. Regrettably, the incitement is coming from mosque pulpits, newspapers, and TV screens, and radio microphones," which are all state-run, Shohaib said.

In Al-Ahram, columnist Ahmed Abdel Moeti Hegazi wrote: "This is not just deviation, it is a culture,"

Hegazi said he went to one mosque after the July 7 London bombings and the slaying of the Egyptian diplomat but the preacher made no mention of either attack. Instead, he denounced women wearing bathing suits.

Abdel Moeti Bayoumi, a theology professor at Al-Azhar University and a member of Al-Azhar's Center of Islamic Research, said change is needed. Al-Azhar, in Cairo, is one of the leading Sunni Muslim institutions in the world.

"Islamic preaching institutions are in a very acute need for shake-up," Bayoumi told The Associated Press. "Issuing statements and holding conferences to condemn terrorism is not what is needed. They are more like a cover-up of unresolved problems."

Islamic leaders "need to do a lot of work to enlighten clerics and preachers and educate them about the true religious ideas ... and teach them about the realities of the age we're living in," he said.

The government appoints the clerics of most big mosques in Egypt - but not of many smaller mosques. The Religious Affairs Ministry gives guidelines for Friday sermons, but there is no guarantee they are followed.

Critics have complained about the justifications of violence in Iraq by some clerics. Egyptian cleric Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi - who has a regular show on the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera - has issued a fatwa saying that since Iraq remains in a state of war, the kidnapping of those involved is allowed, but hostages shouldn't be killed. He repeated that stance Monday, two days after the Sharm attacks.

Not all are convinced that Islam needs reform, however.

Kamal Habib - a former member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981 to 1991 along with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahri - denounced the critics as "secular extremists who hate religion."

He blamed terrorism, instead, on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's autocratic rule.

"Mubarak's regime has produced this generation. ... This is a nihilistic generation of a nihilistic regime."

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July 27, 2005, 08:37 PM
Did you get this from the onion? I cant beleive my eyes.

July 27, 2005, 08:55 PM
All the leaders of the secular Arab states are in grave danger from Moslem extremists. The secular states are Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lybia, Algeria, Moroco and Iraq. Even the leaders of Saudi Arabia, which is anything but secular, are in grave danger from Moslem nut-cases. The leaders of these secular countries are more worried about Moslem extremists than Americans are. There is no chance of Moslem extremists overthrowing the government of the US or governments in Western Europe, but there is a very real chance of an overthrow of Lybia, Iraq, Egypt, etc.

Why do you think Gadafi is trying to be so nice to the US these days? He wants help in dealing with his #1 problem, which is the Moslem Brotherhood (or whatever it's called in Lybia).

So none of this is surprising. The leaders of these secular states have played a dangerous game of courting the support of extremists, while at the same time they are in great danger from the extremists. Saudi Arabia is furthest along into that contradiction, where the government is having a smoulder war with Al Qeada, but some members of the royal family are backing Al Qeada at the same time.

For those who can't read Arabic, that's the cover of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, current publication, on the shelves of book stores in Egypt. The government encourages this kind of publication, and at the same time is in great danger from it.

The right thing for the leaders of these countries to do is to make a public commitment to secularism. That means stopping the state-controled media and mosques from promoting extremism. It means trying to get better relations and trade agreements with Israel. It means introducing some Western values and perspectives.

That's the only way these governments are going to hang on. The ones who try to half-way-embrace extremists are going to end up like the Saudis, and the Saudi government is going to collapse in the not-so-distant future.

July 27, 2005, 09:04 PM
With different text, that could be the jewish Dont Tread On Me.

Standing Wolf
July 27, 2005, 11:28 PM
The secular states are Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lybia, Algeria, Moroco and Iraq.

Mighty loose definition of "secular," I'd say.

July 27, 2005, 11:31 PM
Left out the Turks, but they know how to keep their crazies under control.

July 28, 2005, 10:46 PM
Give the Egyptian press another week, and they'll be able to tell you how Mossad engineered the whole thing. :banghead:

Standing Wolf
July 28, 2005, 11:15 PM
Give the Egyptian press another week, and they'll be able to tell you how Mossad engineered the whole thing.

That long?

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