Tuesday, January 06, 2009

More Egyptians than expected failing to toe the government line

Hasam abu Taleb writes in AlQuds alArabi about the continuing wave of Gaza-solidarity demonstrations throughout Egypt, and he says over a thousand participants, mostly Muslim Brotherhood people, have been arrested by Egyptian security in Cairo in order to prevent them from participating in any more demos. What is new is that he says there are clear signs of dissent in the religious hierarchy:
Among the noteable develoments yesterday [he writes] is a state of defiance among a large number of clerics at Al-Azhar, and other religious leaders within the official establishment, who say that the silence being maintained by the top leadership--and in particular by AlAzhar Sheikh Tantawi--is a kind of weakness and connivance that is being emitted by [today's] Islam. One expression of that was the announcement by a number of clerics of their desire to join with the group that has signed a statement requesting [or demanding] of Arab and Islamic leaders that they open the gates of holy jihad....

Some say the Al-Azhar Sheikh is between two forces, one for the maintenance of his relationship with the regime, and the other pushing him toward representation of the torrential pressure on the part of Egyptian clerics and the Islamic street to pressure Arab and Islamic rulers to declare immediate jihad in the path of god. A large group of preachers say there is a need for Tantawi either to join with the people, or to resign and open the position to someone with the spirit that would enable him to take a firmer position, in conformity with the attitude of the street...

Among the most noteable cases of preachers criticizing the Arab establishment for what is being done to the brothers [in Gaza] are Safwat Hijazi, a mainstay of the People's Channel [satellite TV] and Salam abu al-Fatuh, and Sheikh Hazim Salah abu Ismael, not to mention a large number of others, who many viewers expected would be following the official line.

In particular, it is noteworthy that these people and others have refused to acquiesce in schemes that were proposed by institutions of an official nature that urged an attack on Hamas and the laying of responsibility on them for what is happening in the Gaza Strip.
While the journalist pays most attention to the religious figures because of their popular influence, he notes that Egyptian academics haven't been silent either.
For their part, academic associations at a numer of universities witnessed important activities yesterday, with thousands of academics calling for necessary action by the Egyptian government to abandon its hard line, and support the people of the Gaza Strip and to defend them in every possible way.
By now you know the drill. America will continue to support the Egyptian hard line, the Egyptian opposition, secular and religious both, will be ignored, and when and if any Egyptian Islamists join their Gaza brothers in the fight, this will be deplored as another manifestation of irrational Islamic forces fighting off the inevitable and glorious progress of secular democracy throughout the region.


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