Posted tagged ‘Egypt’s Parliament’

Sisi’s church donation stirs religious controversy

January 27, 2017

Sisi’s church donation stirs religious controversy, Al-Monitor

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a meeting with Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, with some members of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt July 28, 2016 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency. The Egyptian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. - RTSK39U

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a meeting with Egyptian Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church, with some members of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church at the Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt July 28, 2016 in this handout picture courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency.

“In addition to making a donation for the building of a church, [Sisi] also donated his money to establish a mosque, thus putting both communities [Christian and Muslim] on the same pedestal.”

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CAIRO — Egypt’s Coptic Christians have become used to visits by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. On Jan. 6, for the third year in a row, Sisi celebrated Coptic Christmas at the Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo, extending Christmas wishes to the country’s Copts and Tawadros II, the pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark.

This year, the celebration was different. The cathedral where Sisi addressed the congregation and delivered Christmas wishes stands just meters from St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church, where an explosion during a service on Dec. 11 claimed the lives of 27 people and wounded 48, mostly women and children.

Sisi responded to the attack not just by visiting the church, but by announcing a 100,000 Egyptian pound (roughly $5,200) personal donation toward building a church and mosque in the new administrative capital of New Cairo.

Hamdi Rizq, the host of the show “Al-Nazra” (“The View”) on satellite TV channel Sada al-Balad, reacted by announcing during his show Jan. 6 that donations were being collected for the building of a mosque and a church in the new capital.

Amina Naseer, a professor of religion at Al-Azhar University and a member of parliament, who also serves on the parliamentary education committee, said in a Jan. 7 phone call on “Al-Nazra” that she had also donated 100,000 pounds to be split equally between the mosque and the church.

During the same show, other donors came forward: Farag Amer, the chair of the parliamentary committee for youth and sport; member of parliament Mustafa Bakry; and businessman Mohammed Abul-Enein, the owner of the Sada al-Balad network.

“The president’s call for donations for a mosque and a church should be an example to all,” Alaa Wali, head of the parliament’s housing committee, told Al-Monitor. “I suggested setting up a fund to receive donations for places of worship in general, including for renovating churches damaged because of terrorist attacks, but the priority will be a mosque and a church in the administrative capital so they can be as beautiful as possible.”

Naseer told Al-Monitor she had urged all members of parliament to donate to the fund. “Those donations are for all Egyptians, not just for the Copts,” she said. “It is true that they will go toward building a church, but that is a reaction by all Egyptians against everyone who tries to impose a foreign mandate on us, as the US Congress tried to do.”

Naseer was referring to a bill debated in Congress on Dec. 28 that would require Egypt to report annually to the US State Department on its work to restore churches vandalized by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was toppled from power in July 2013. Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeed rejected in a press statement issued on the same day the bill and the debate, calling it flagrant intervention in Egypt’s affairs.

While Sisi’s donation was welcomed by some, the suggestion that Egyptians should donate to the fund was slammed by his opponents. Lawyer Tarek Elawady wrote on Facebook Jan. 6: “Sir, Egypt does not need mosques and churches; it needs schools, factories and workplaces.”

Magda Ghonem, a professor of economics and rural development at Ain Shams University in Cairo, tweeted on Jan. 7: “We have a surplus of places of worship, no smaller than the surplus in outbidding and hypocrisy. What about building the biggest home for street children, or the biggest university, or the biggest training center?”

In a lengthy post on Facebook Jan. 7, Cairo University political science professor Hazem Hosny said that the state may not have allocated the necessary funds for a church or a mosque, rather intending to rely on donations made by the citizens. “The president made the first donation, but the whole thing is an attempt to get Egyptians to pay for the new capital under the pretext of building a mosque or a church,” Hosny wrote.

Political activist Mamdouh Hamza satirized Sisi’s donation, tweeting Jan. 7: “Donate for the building of a mosque or a church, because the faithful are lining up outside thousands of mosques and churches; there’s a critical shortage of places for prayer.”

While some critics played down the importance of building mosques and churches at the present time, other bloggers and anonymous activists condemned the idea of donating for church building on religious grounds, saying it violates Sharia.

“The Christian faith is in opposition with Sharia and Islamic doctrine on many issues,” a Salafist scholar who asked not to be named told Al-Monitor. “It is haram for Muslims to donate to the building of any institution that will be a base for discussion and promotion of anything that contradicts Sharia and Islamic doctrine.”

For his part, Abdel Fattah Idriss, a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University, told Al-Monitor, “There is no jurisprudence proof or any sunna in the holy Quran that prohibits a head of state from donating funds for the building of a church or any other house of worship for the monotheistic religions. Islamic Sharia had approved of this as per Prophet Muhammad who gave the right for Jews of Medina to build their temples.”

Idriss said, “The donation made by a head of state is widely welcomed, as he is considered the [protector] of all communities residing in Egypt and has the complete authority to build houses of worship. Such donations strengthen people’s patriotism and make them feel part of the nation, qualities that Islam has always sought to instill.”

He added, “In addition to making a donation for the building of a church, [Sisi] also donated his money to establish a mosque, thus putting both communities [Christian and Muslim] on the same pedestal.”

A similar controversy broke out in 2009 regarding Sharia rulings on Muslim donations for the building of churches. The sheikh of Al-Azhar at the time, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, met a delegation from the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, headed by Naguib Gibrael, an adviser to the Orthodox Church. The media reported he had ruled that Muslims donating for church building was permitted by Islamic law. His office denied the reports after a wave of opposition from scholars at Al-Azhar.

Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa, a government body that advises on Islamic religious affairs, ruled on Jan. 7, 2016, “Christians in Egypt may, according to Islamic law, build churches if they need that for their worship, and Islam demands they be allowed to remain, according to the laws laid down by the Egyptian state. There is nothing in any reliable text on Islamic law to prohibit that.”

Sisi’s attempt to rein in the anger of the Copts after the bombing attack of St. Peter and St. Paul Coptic Orthodox Church thus prompted a range of criticism. But it appears that the opposition comes from a pre-existing state of antagonism between him and his critics who bemoan the lack of social, economic and educational progress in Egypt.

Egypt’s parliament responds to UK Commons’ ‘defence of political Islam’

November 23, 2016

Egypt’s parliament responds to UK Commons’ ‘defence of political Islam’, Ahram on LineGamal Essam El-Din, November 21, 2016

The Egyptian parliament’s foreign affairs committee said its report aims to expose Europe and the UK’s false views on “political Islam”

egyptparliament

“The UK parliament report ignores – either on purpose or due to a lack of knowledge about historical facts – that since it was established in the first third of the previous century the Muslim Brotherhood has been responsible for spreading the radical Islamic ideology upon which all terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida, ISIS, Hamas, Ezzeddin Al-Qassam, Al-Nusra Front and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis were based,” said the report, adding that “most of the leaders of these terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida’s current leader Ayman Al-Zawahri were once members of Muslim Brotherhood.”

“This group is the godfather of all jihadist and Salafist ideologies which dream of resurrecting the state of the caliphate against the infidel West,” said the report.

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A 10-page report issued by the Egyptian parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Sunday launched a scathing attack on EU and UK politicians and MPs who defend “political Islam.”

The report, issued in response to a 7 November UK House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee’s report on the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam, said it does not aim to defend the Egyptian government’s security and legal measures against the Brotherhood group and its affiliated militant and terrorist organizations.

“Our report reflects our responsibility as elected MPs to stand against a group which seized its one year in power to turn Egypt into a religious state and show the world the true meaning of “political Islam,” said the report.

It added that the “Muslim Brotherhood tried to steal history and turn the Arab world’s first civilian state into a theocratic state that is hostile to human civilization and the values of freedom, equality and citizenship.”

The report said “if Europe and the West are really keen to stem the tide of religious terrorism and the political hijacking of Islam, they should correct their understanding of all political Islam movements which claim they have a licence from God to implement his laws on earth and impose the state of the caliphate on the world .”

Ahmed Said, head of the Egyptian foreign affairs committee, told reporters Sunday that Egypt’s parliament deplores the UK report’s inclusion of a number of horrible lies.

“Our committee’s report aims to expose these lies. We intend to send it to the Egyptian ambassadors in England and Germany to stand against  the attempts of several politicians and MPs in these two countries to polish the image of political Islam ,” the report said.

Said said “we know from history that Europe was able to move ahead and achieve progress only after it made a separation between religion and politics.”

“So we are surprised by the new generation of European radical liberals and progressives who defend political Islam and thereby give cover for Islamist movements which claim victimhood to spread across Europe and create a fertile ground for Islamist radicals there,” said Said.

The report said the UK parliament’s report offered a very artificial interpretation of “political Islam.”

“We wonder how a parliament that was based on separating religion from politics  approves that a country like Egypt be governed by a theocratic state,” said the report, adding that “this is a setback from all the democratic and liberal ideals which formed the foundation of European civilization.”

The report said that “the UK parliament made a very artificial and marginal differentiation between Islamist movements that exploit democracy to reach power on the one hand, and Islamist movements that seek the path of violence and armed jihad to impose their radical ideology on societies, on the other.”

“All studies that have been conducted on political Islam movements show that there are no essential differences among them and that they all seek one objective – that is trying to impose a strict code of Islam and Islamic Sharia law on the world, and to launch an armed Jihad against ‘infidel rulers’ everywhere,” argued the report.

“In other words,” the report added, “these groups want to Islamise the entire world and they only differ on when and how these objectives should be implemented,” said the report.

“While a group like the Muslim Brotherhood shows the face of artificial Islamic moderation to gain ground in the West and infiltrate societies there, other groups seek the road of violence. Each complements the other,” said the report.

The report described the Muslim Brotherhood “as the mother of all jihadist and Salafist movements.”

“The UK parliament report ignores – either on purpose or due to a lack of knowledge about historical facts – that since it was established in the first third of the previous century the Muslim Brotherhood has been responsible for spreading the radical Islamic ideology upon which all terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida, ISIS, Hamas, Ezzeddin Al-Qassam, Al-Nusra Front and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis were based,” said the report, adding that “most of the leaders of these terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaida’s current leader Ayman Al-Zawahri were once members of Muslim Brotherhood.”

“This group is the godfather of all jihadist and Salafist ideologies which dream of resurrecting the state of the caliphate against the infidel West,” said the report.

“We doubt that UK politicians or MPs have any books about the ideological basis of this group, which is highly hostile to the West and what they describe as its “liberal and infidel culture,” said the report.

To press its case, the report reviews a number of political assassinations which the Muslim Brotherhood has carried out since it was established by its leader Hassan Al-Banna in 1928.

The second part of the response accuses the UK report of making “a big mistake” by drawing a comparison between the experience of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.

“The Media and politicians in the West always like to portray Tunisia as the democratic, inclusive model in the Middle East,” said the report, adding that “this is a big mistake because facts show that Tunisia has become a fertile ground for Islamist jihadists who spread extremism and terrorism in France and Europe and that more than 1,000 Tunisians — the greatest number from any Arab country — a have joined the IS group.”

“Doesn’t this show that the Muslim Brotherhood ideology was behind the transformation of Tunisia into a breeding ground for jihadists,” wondered the report, adding that “not to mention that Tunisia is a small country – with 11 million people – but Egypt is a country with 90 million and the birthplace of the Muslim Brotherhood, which exploited political tolerance over eight decades to create a wide network of businesses and secret armed militias.”

“The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt owns banks, charity organizations and receives huge donations from wealthy sympathisers in the Arabian Gulf and throughout the Islamic world,” said the report.

The report also argued that the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia accepted democracy only for tactical reasons. “After they saw how millions in Egypt revolted against their mother group, they decided to backtrack only for tactical reasons,” said the report.

The report’s third section is devoted to explaining the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and internal structure “which is highly hostile to all democratic values.”

“Their ideology is based on strict obedience to the group’s supreme guide, not to mention that its main ideologues, such as Sayyid Qutb, were the ones who invented the jihadist ideology which states that “democracy goes against the rule of God and Islamic Sharia,” said the report.

The report also reviews in detail “the one year of the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt.”

“They exploited the collapse of (former president) Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party to exclude all civilian political forces from power and impose their rule on the country. When millions revolted against them and expelled them from power on 30 June, 2013, they resorted to claims of victimhood again, only to find an ear in the UK and its parliament,” said the report, insisting that “Egyptians stand firm against the rule of ‘the supreme guide’ and will not allow their country to become a religious state.”

“Egyptians are in a battle of life and death against this group, which is the mother of all radical Islam movements,” said the report.

The report also said that many of those who implemented terrorist attacks against the US on 11 September, 2001 received training at the hands of old and veteran Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

The report spotlights what it calls the Muslim Brotherhood’s “empowerment ideology” which seeks to Islamise the entire world in a gradual way.

The report urges the UK parliament and politicians to review “the dark history of the Muslim Brotherhood” and to verify their information about it “instead of issuing distorted reports about political Islam.”

“While the world has become increasingly aware of the dangers of all radical Islam movements, we are surprised that the UK MPs and politicians still live in a coma, insistent not only on polishing the image of these movements, but also propagating the biggest lie: that it is a peaceful and moderate movement,” the report concludes.

The report includes a great number of details about the yearlong rule of former president Mohamed Morsi and how the Brotherhood exploited this year to isolate all political forces.

“For all those who believe in the West that Islamist movements can be integrated into the political process of Arab countries, we offer this bitter experience to put an end to this lie,” said the report.

The UK House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee released its report on 7 November, commenting on the findings and conclusions of a December 2015 review by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The 2015 FCO report concluded that the group has long maintained a dubious position vis-à-vis the use of violence and terrorism to achieve political change.

The UK parliament committee said that the FCO review “undermined confidence in the impartiality of the FCO’s work” due to the “misguided appointment” of Sir John Jenkins, the UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to head the review effort.