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This site is the successor to Cobourg Atheist (more here) but now the focus is on news with opinion and not on blog essays.  About 150 of the articles from Cobourg Atheist have been moved here. Coverage is world wide although it’s from a Canadian perspective.  Comments are open but registration is recommended.

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The Arab Spring meant that Egypt deposed a dictator and held elections.  That’s the good news.  The bad news was that they were misled into thinking that Islam had all the answers so they elected the Muslim brotherhood who proceeded to impose their idea of laws – mostly decided by clerics (imams) and all based on Sharia Law (laws based on the Qur’an).  They were then deposed by the army who decided that the only fair/just way to run a country was to be secular – that is, to have a clear separation between Church and State - except that they still show a strong Islamic influence.  But until now, it has not been made clear exactly what Islamic edicts/laws were being imposed under Morsi and the brotherhood.  Raymond Ibrihim reports that Dr. Sayed Zayed of Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo has now written and published a report titled “The Misguided Fatwas of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis” which lists some of these.  (Middle East Forum) Dr. Zayed is still Muslim - but sees himself as more moderate.

Al-Azhar UniversityAl-Azhar University - CairoThere were also earlier reports ( Raymond Ibrihim) and together the list is damning.

I have summarized the list into point form:

  • A woman swimming is an 'adulteress' (because the sea in Arabic is male and it’s touching her) and for women bananas and cucumbers are 'forbidden’ (because they resemble a phallus).
  • It is unacceptable for women to turn the air conditioning on at home during the absence of their husbands as this could be used as a sign to indicate to neighbors that the woman is at home alone and any of them could commit adultery with her.
  • One fatwa suggested that marriage to ten-year-old girls should be allowed to prevent girls "from deviating from the right path," while another prohibited girls from going to schools located 25 kilometers away from their homes.
  • Another stated that a marriage is annulled if the husband and wife copulate with no clothes on.
  • These fatwas also sanctioned the use of women and children as human shields in violent demonstrations and protests, as these are considered jihads to empower Islam.
  • Even slavery was permitted: "the people who issued these fatwas demanded the enactment of a law allowing divorced women to own slaves," presumably to help her, as she no longer has a man to support her.
  • Some other fatwas issued by the Brotherhood and Salafis during Morsi's tenure:
    • advocating for the destruction of the pyramids and sphinx; scrapping the Camp David Accords;
    • killing anyone protesting against ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi
    • forbidding Muslims from greeting Christians;
    • forbidding Muslim cab drivers from transporting Christian priests (whose clothing makes them identifiable);
    • forbidding TV shows that mock or make light of Islamists;
    • and forbidding women from marrying any men involved with the former Mubarak government.

Raymond Ibrihim comments:

Predictably, the Al Azhar study criticizing the Brotherhood and Salafi fatwas concludes by saying that only al Azhar, which styles itself as a moderate institution, is qualified to issue fatwas. Of course, one of the most sensational of all fatwas -- "adult breastfeeding," which called on women to "breastfeed" male acquaintances, thereby making them relatives and justifying their mixed company -- was issued by Al Azhar, but later retracted. It is apparently this retraction that makes Al Azhar seemingly more moderate than the Brotherhood.

This report talks only about fatwas and mostly about sexual conduct but it ignores other problems in Egypt. Basically, Islam is incompatible with democracy and Muslims want “democracy” for the wrong reasons.  They do not want it because they support democratic values like gender equality, tolerance of diversity and mutual trust but because they want the prosperity that “democratic countries” have.

If Egypt rejects Sharia law and adopts a secular approach, then they will progress but that seems unlikely.  It appears that they think that some Muslims (Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis) are too strict and that moderation is the answer.  It is certainly better – but is not the answer. Fully secular together with support for gender equality, tolerance of diversity and mutual trust is the answer.