Thursday, August 25, 2011

Islamists’ numbers, money give Egypt reason to worry

Egyptian Gazette
Islamists’ numbers and money have given the nation reason to worry

August 4, 2011

Amr Emam

CAIRO – Alarmed at the rising influence of the Islamists, Egypt's liberals, leftists and nationalists have decided to join hands to create a new alliance to try and counter the post-revolutionary drive towards Islamism.

The new alliance is made up of the nation's leading liberal, leftist and national activists who, shocked by calls to apply the Shari’a (Islamic Law) in Egypt, want to stem the rising Islamic tide and defend the state they hope to establish for all citizens after the ousting of Mubarak’s regime.

"The Islamists are bent on altering the identity of the Egyptian people by instilling their radical version of Islam," said Karima el-Hefnawi, a pharmacist by profession and a liberal activist who is part of the new alliance.

"This radical version of Islam is totally foreign to Egypt and we must all join hands to counter it," she told The Gazette in an interview.

Egypt's coalition of Salafists, Muslim Brotherhood members and apolitical Islamists raised concerns about their intentions, when they dominated the nation's squares last Friday, chanting Islamist slogans and demanding the application of the Shari’a.

Some of the Islamists in the nation's squares even raised the flag of Saudi Arabia, which, according to speakers in a recent seminar on the threats posed by Islamism to Egypt's moderate Islam, wants to spread its version of radical Wahabi Islam across the world, including Egypt.

El-Hefnawi and like-minded activists say some Islamists have confessed to accepting funds from Gulf countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, to lobby for the application of Islamic Law and the creation of an Islamic regime in this country.

"Where did the Islamists get all this money from?" asked Mamdouh Hamza, a leading architect and a member of the new alliance. "We must pay attention to funding for these people, coming from outside Egypt.”

In this, Hamza has a point, his colleagues say. When they converged on Tahrir Square, the iconic centre of the Egyptian revolution, the Islamists used hundreds of buses to ferry thousands of their supporters from all governorates to the heart of the Egyptian capital.

Some estimates put the spending of the Salafists on Friday alone at LE4 million (almost $666,000), a fantastic fortune by most Egyptians’ standards. Some people say the Islamists each contributed LE20 towards the LE4 million.

Even with this, the Islamists’ financial abilities seem to be spreading fear everywhere.

The liberal activists who met at the independent Journalists' Syndicate on Tuesday called on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to bring the funding of the Islamists under scrutiny. They said that some countries in the Gulf had wanted to mould Egyptians into accepting their own version of Islam.

"Egyptians have spent 150 years dreaming of establishing their own independent and civil state," said Abdel-Gelil Moustafa, a university professor and a political activist. "We will not let the Salafists distort and destroy our country that easily.”

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