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Egyptian moderation and doing as you would be done by

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The son of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi argues that the minute you leave the confines of your home, it is no longer just a matter of belief or worship. Faith becomes a political threat.

Refaat Mohamed
29 July 2012

Abd el Rahman Yussuf, an Egyptian poet, who worked as coordinator of the campaign “ElBaradei for president 2011”, is also the son of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the famous Islamic theologian, who is quite controversial and yet very popular in the Arab world. Abd el Rahman has always been an active member in the political opposition movements in Egypt, even before the revolution. He was also affiliated with the April 6 movement and the kefaya (“enough”) movement which played such a great role in sparking the Egyptian revolution.

About 15 days ago, a week before the month of Ramadan, Abd el Rahman wrote an article entitled, “ Misconceptions about freedom of belief” in which he argued that freedom of belief should be guaranteed to every citizen as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the balance between the three heavenly religions such that the Egyptian population divides between,“Islam 88% - 90%”, “Christianity 10% -12%”, and “Judaism  fewer than 200 individuals” . As long as this remains in place, you may have the freedom to believe in whatever you want, or to denounce whatever you want - as long as it is confined to your house, and that you don’t preach it, or hold any public events, or form any groups, or political parties.  “Close the door of your house, and worship what you want, and disbelieve what you wish, but society and the state have the right to take all the measures necessary when you write an article, or produce a film, or compose a novel, or create a poem, or set up a party according to this intrusive alien belief.” 

He argues that the minute you leave the confines of your home, it is no longer just a matter of belief or worship. Faith becomes a political threat, which in turn threatens the unified backbone of Egyptian society, and thus national security. He cites what happened in Afghanistan as an example.

This article caused a commission amongst the younger generation, and the activists in Egyptian society on Twitter, on which Abd Elrahman himself is active. They mocked him and accused him of being a hypocrite who pretends to be an advocate for a secular nation, while in reality he is just another Islamist who wants to reap the benefits of the revolution, and turn Egypt into an Islamic oppressing nation. This nagging finally forced him to write a sequel to his article where he berates those who insulted him, and defends what he said.

The thing is that most of those activists adopt ideologies that originated in the west like communism, socialism, liberalism, capitalism…etc., and they tend to be radical, while Egyptian society has high levels illiteracy. Those who can barely read and write are ignorant of such ideologies and have not been subjected to a wide spectrum of political ideologies. They think, for example, that a communist is an infidel who doesn’t believe in anything.

The issue that arises here is: all the political and free thinkers and a large number of people from the educated sectors of the community agree that a secular state is ideal for Egypt right now. They are opposed to the ruling

“Freedom and Justice” party and its affiliate, “ Al-Nour”, who held the majority in the former parliament, and had a huge following in the streets and in every other home. If these radical Islamists imagined for one moment, given how strongly they believe in their religion, how they would feel if someone tried to prevent them from practising it, they wouldn’t dream of inflicting that fate on anyone else.  So my question is: Is a secular Egypt a lost cause? Or should the people who advocate for such a state keep on working for it and fighting for it flat out? Or is this Islamic state we are witnessing now just a phase that will soon be overtaken by the very Egyptian tendency towards moderation and compromise?

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