Egypt’s Islamic TV talks with iron Salafist

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Egypt is now ruled by a government backed by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and that has given rise to an explosive intersection of religion and politics in a nation where both were oppressed.

Salafists in the open

“What the Salafis are saying on their TV channels is not something new to Egyptian society,” said Amr Bargisi, director of programs at the Egyptian Union for Liberal Youth, a nongovernmental organization based in Cairo. “It’s being said by cabdrivers, in schools and all the time.”

“What has happened,” Mr. Bargisi said during a recent email exchange with The Washington Times, is the “mainstreaming [of] Salafist preachers and politicians in other, ordinary TV stations. This also includes state-owned public stations.

“Having it out in the open, however, is to the advantage of its critics, not its proponents,” Mr. Bargisi said. “Believe me, since Salafists became ‘mainstreamed,’ this has made them far more susceptible to attacks from everyone.”

Indeed, sociologist Saadudin Ibrahim created controversy with an appearance on the politically liberal Egyptian network ONTV when he asserted that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists were attempting to “hijack” Egypt’s revolution. Such criticism of the nation’s leadership would not have been allowed under Mubarak.

“The young people who carried out the revolution are not in power,” Mr. Ibrahim said, according to an English translation of remarks posted on the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute, a Washington nonprofit organization that monitors Arabic media.

“It’s the latecomers who are in power. Some of them, like the Salafis, did not participate in the revolution at all,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “This is an indication of their plan to hijack, control and monopolize.”

His fears appeared to have been vindicated a few weeks later when Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi spoke of Muslim aspirations for world dominance during his appearance on the Al Nas network.

An apparently neutral host on the network asked him whether new fronts of war would need to be opened against Israel — including an Egyptian front — to ensure that Jerusalem can be made the capital of a new “United States of the Arab.”

Mr. Higazi replied, “Muslims are not warmongers.”

“We seek peace,” said the cleric, although he added that “if not through peace, there is nothing preventing war. We welcome war.”

“The day will come when we will be the masters of the world,” Mr. Higazi said.

His remarks make up the political side of the largely religion-focused content that fills the programming slots of Al Nas and such other Salafist networks as Al Rahma and Al Hikma.

“Islam instructs a man to beat his wife as a last resort before divorce so that she will mend her ways,” Egyptian cleric Abd Al Rahman Mansour said during a show on Al Nas in mid-August.

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About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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