I guess that’s one way to make a statement. In the fall of 2013 the Egyptian government decided to close down any mosque that was 861 sq. feet or smaller, the idea being that most of the radicalization that was taking place in Egypt was happening in these small places of worship. Some Egyptians fought back against the new standard, and the matter went to the Egyptian courts to be decided. Well, the courts have finally ruled — and they’ve sided with the government. The ruling by the Egyptian court means that some 27,000 mosques across Egypt will have to permanently shutter their doors.
Ahmed Karimeh, a professor of Sharia at Al-Azhar University explained that closing those neighborhood places of worship, located in apartment buildings, commercial buildings or factories, would help mitigate the influence of extremist religious orators such as those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist groups or Shiites, who use those places of worship to take advantage of religious gatherings. As such, the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision, while late, was the correct one.
But Karimeh warned that the move would be to no avail if the ministry allowed people without credentials to take to pulpits. Initially, in August 2013, the ministry allowed only Al-Azhar imams access to pulpits, a decision later reversed in February when, for political considerations, the ministry allowed Salafists to preach, a disastrous decision that turned mosques into time bombs under the control of violent, Salafist-born militant factions, according to Karimeh. Allowing Salafists to preach for political considerations as an Islamic alternative to face the Islamic State ideology, at a time when hundreds of Al-Azhar scholars applied for but were denied preaching permits, runs contrary to the ministry’s repeated statements that it would bar non-Al-Azhar imams from taking the pulpit.
Egypt seems serious in their efforts to end the threat of radical Islamic terrorism in their own nation, but that likely won’t fix the problems we face with radical Islam. Even as Egypt expands their fight against terrorism, neighboring nations like Qatar choose to embrace radicalism. The Qatari’s decision to not support Egypt’s fight against ISIS in Libya and against radical Islam in general has caused tension and ”hurt feelings” in both nations.
The hashtag #HaveYouCursedQatarToday led the list of most popular hashtags in Egypt, and even came in third in the list of top trending hashtags globally. It was used by Egyptians to express their anger toward Qatar. This online activity comes in light of the escalation of a new Egyptian-Qatari crisis, which began with Al Jazeera condemning the Egyptian airstrike and broadcasting images of children and civilian victims in Libya. Later, the Arab League issued a statement confirming that all member states supported the Egyptian air raid with the exception of Qatar, which had reservations.
In response to this Qatari reticence, Egypt’s permanent delegate to the Arab League accused Qatar of supporting terrorism. As a result of this, Doha was quick to recall its ambassador to Cairo for consultations. The GCC took a stance in support of Qatar, and issued an official statement rejecting Egyptian accusations that Qatar was supporting terrorism.
Sadly, Egypt has had to proceed in their fight without the support of the USA as well, which has hindered their progress in recruiting allies to fight ISIS. Even so the Egyptians seem steadfast in their determination to fight the terrorist scourge. One wonders how long it will be until other nations in the world seek to shut down mosques in an effort to stem the tide of radical Islam. While Western nations may want to close down a few mosques, our commitment to freedom of religion makes such moves unlikely. In fact, it is probable that we will only see government’s closing the doors of local mosques in Muslim nations where the government can hide behind the local Muslim religious leaders. While there are likely to be no demonstrations in Egypt against the closing of 27,000 religious meeting places… in the USA, France or Great Britain, the government closing a mosque would surely lead to riots!
It once again shows the hypocrisy of Islam and the difficult position we in the West face when battling radical Islamic terrorism.
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