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'We won't give in to the radicals'

By-EG | 19 October 2009

Liberal thinkers and writers are queueing up to protest against hesba (a religious principle, which legally empowers the ordinary Muslim to go to court if he suspects that a person, whether Muslim or Copt, has done something incompatible with the Sharia [Islamic Law])

The self-proclaimed guardians of Islam are said to have abused their power by acting subjectively in putting the alleged violator in the dock. The regular victims of the hesba enforcers include members of the entertainment community, writers and thinkers, who allegedly break the social and religious taboos in Egypt's conservative society. The victims angrily attribute their grievances to Article 2 of the Constitution, which states that the Sharia is the principal source for laws in the country.One thinker, who has been involved in a fierce war against Muslim fundamentalists ever since winning the State Prize for Merit, has accused these hesba enforcers of manipulating the thoughts and beliefs of simple Muslims.Sayyed el-Qemanni also warns that the self-proclaimed guardians of Islam are outrageously campaigning to hamper intellectual, cultural and artistic talent. “It's sickening that these hesba enforcers are - deliberately or foolishly - distorting the incontestable teachings of Islam, only to control the minds of ordinary citizens,” he says, adding that he's given these fundamentalists the cold shoulder. In an interview with Al-Massai'ya newspaper, the man who won the state prize earlier this year lashed out at his opponents. “Only the idle throw stones at me,” he said, casting doubt on his opponents' integrity, dignity and sincerity. “These sheikhs cannot be devoted Muslims. They seize divine power and classify people into kafir [non-believer] and Muslim.”El-Qemanni has received death threats for his allegedly liberal and even radical thoughts in his works on the history of Islam. He says that, without Article 2, these people would hate him less. Identifying his foes as Islamists, the thinker continued: “Article 2 encourages those people to promulgate their radical ideas and deaden moderate voices.”Gaber Asfour, a leading intellectual, agrees. “These hostile radical Islamists are trying to cause tragic divisions in society,” Asfour warns, adding that Islamists terrorise talented literati and artists.Like el-Qemanni, Asfour, also a winner of the State Prize for Merit, has angered radical Islamists. But he urges his colleagues to step up their resistance to ideas circulated by Muslim radicals and fundamentalists, “otherwise, the country would fall in the hands of these people”.
 

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