October 22, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8323

Egyptian Writer: The Egyptian Ministry Of Religious Endowments Should Focus On Fighting Extremism And Ignorance Instead Of Interfering In People's Lives

October 22, 2019
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 8323

In his August 21, 2019 column in the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, 'Adel Na'man mocked the decision of Egypt's Ministry of Religious Endowments to send a delegation of clerics to the coast, Egypt's main leisure and recreation region, to advise vacationers on such matters as where to dine and how to dress. Na'man complained that the ministry focuses its efforts on such trivialities instead of attending to the country's pressing problems. He called on it to send its clerics to Egypt's hotbeds of extremism, ignorance and poverty so as to promote moderate Islam there and address the roots of the people's problems. He stated that the Egyptian people have opted for a civil state and for minimizing the clerics' involvement in their daily lives, and that the ministry will lose its battle against this.

'Adel Na'man (Source: Al-Watan, Egypt)

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

"The day will come when we find the offices and the employees of the Ministry of Religious Endowments inside our closets next to our clothes, on our refrigerator shelves next to our food and beverages, standing in our bathrooms, [and] sleeping next to us under the same blanket in bed at night. The Ministry sheikhs will teach us how to dress, eat, use the toilet, and have relations with our wives; it will not give up until it actualizes its aspiration to 'preach to every citizen.'

"The Ministry of Religious Endowments [recently] decided to dispatch religious preaching convoys comprising outstanding young imams to the northern coastal villages [and] to the city of Al-Alamein, on a weekly basis throughout the summer, to answer vacationers' questions about the burkini, the sharia-compliant bathing suit, about Islamic evening dress, about the religious position regarding patronizing restaurants on the coast, and even about covering naked, exposed automobiles. It is as if these people [on the coast]... lack much in their religion that must be filled in; they must straighten out their crooked and lame path; their happiness is too great and must be curbed, [and] their faith is weak and tenuous and requires enhancement. Perhaps [after the imams' visits] the women will reconsider and switch from a bikini to a burkini, and from exposed faces to a niqab, and the men too will be stricken with fear and will switch from shorts to long pants and grow beards. Maybe we will even receive a greater blessing, and these [men] will abandon their jobs and places of commerce and labor and will situate themselves near mosques to sell unguents and tooth-cleaning sticks...

"It would be preferable and more effective, gentlemen, for these convoys to go to the provinces that suffer from ignorance, extremism and terrorism, like several of the villages in Al-Minya province, and for them to call on their [Muslim] residents to live in peace and security with their Christian brothers and to let [other] people pray and speak with their Lord as they wish...

"Or, it would [be better for] these convoys to go to some of the poor villages in Al-Fayoum province, from which the worst terrorists and extremists emerge, and give them good counsel, direct them to the right path of the religion, and call on people to abandon the jihadi and takfiri ideology and to live in peace with [other] people and with the state. [It would be better for the convoys] to go to the poorest and most needy villages whose [residents] marry off their children when they are minors, and where a few even shamelessly sell them. [The preachers] will point their blessed finger at the reasons for the problem and trouble and will play a part in their solution...

"There are many negative phenomena in our villages. These preachers must rectify the situation in them, since they are the worthiest of men for preaching and [giving] good counsel. In the coastal region, [on the other hand], there is no [problem of] extremists, terrorists, or murderers, and even [the sin of] wearing a bathing suit there is not comparable to [that of] carrying explosives...

"The reason for the clerics' blatant sticking of their noses into our lives is [the fact that] people have chosen the civil state as a model for government, science as a means and life path, and reason so they can compare options and make decisions... The desire [for the civil model of government] has grown among the young people, who are the future of the nation, [and] it would not have been [so] strong if this model had not afforded a life of freedom and dignity for all citizens without differentiation or discrimination among them – while the religious model has failed to deal justly with the sons of this country, and has even sown the seeds of civil war among them...

"Our sheikhs [therefore] fear that they will be relinquished – [a fear] that is reasonable and possible – or that, at the very least, they will not be at the center of decision-making... It bothers them to give up their leading status. Thus, they have honed their goals and closed their ranks in the struggle against this stream [that wants to limit their influence], and have declared war against it until they are either victorious or martyred for Allah. [To this end], they have spread out everywhere: in metro stations, streets, and squares; on radio stations and television channels; and, recently, on the northern coast, in order to pressure [this trend] and draw the simple folk to them, [and] to eradicate and reverse this trend.

"But it is already too late, because the waves that come one after another, and the civil state, are already waving the flag of victory and freedom. We say to [the preachers], Stay in your mosques, guard the public funds, and leave the people's affairs to the people and the law."



[1] Al-Watan (Egypt), August 21, 2019.

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