‘Moral Vigilantism’ Reportedly on the Rise in Egypt as Islamist Pres. Unilaterally Appoints Cabinet
An alliance of pro-democracy advocates criticized Egypt’s newly-elected Islamist president over the weekend for unilaterally choosing a prime minister with no track record, while leading without transparency and alienating political groups with liberal leanings.
The National Front alliance — an umbrella group of democracy advocates, secularists and moderate Islamists behind the uprising that drove longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak from power last year — said Mohammed Morsi has reneged on campaign promises to form a national unity government.
On Tuesday, Morsi surprised the country by choosing an unknown technocrat and former “water minister,” Hesham Kandil, as his prime minister.
Many advocates see Kandil, a U.S.-educated engineer in his 40s, as a political lightweight, and therefore, likely easy to control.
The new government faces a mounting crisis amid alarming lawlessness, a flagging economy, and public frustration. Hospitals have come under attack by angry Egyptians, while demonstrators block roads in frustration over frequent power outages and a lack of running water. Labor strikes are widespread.
The Los Angeles Times has more on the “moral vigilantism” that is reportedly on the rise:
An engineering student [was] killed for walking with his fiancee by men reportedly linked to a group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Women are harassed for not wearing veils, owners of liquor stores say they’re being threatened, and fundamentalists are calling for sex segregation on buses and in workplaces.
In a news conference, the Front said Morsi’s decision-making “lacks transparency and clarity,” creating “a clouded political scene.” They reminded the president of his debt to allies who supported him last month in the decisive round of voting, helping him beat old-guard rival Ahmed Shafiq.
In return for the support, Morsi had pledged inclusiveness later in his term, but has seemingly changed his mind.
The L.A. Times adds that the “crucial” upcoming battle in Egypt will now be how deeply shariah law influences the constitution.
The L.A. Times continues:
Sheik Mustafa Albadry, an ultraconservative preacher on the outskirts of Cairo [said:] “Scholars need to be aware of this rising current. The oppression of the old regime created radicalism because the youth didn’t have proper guidance. And today’s financial problems are making people more prone to extremism.”
Mubarak persecuted and manipulated Islamist groups for decades, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. His secular police state led to anger that inspired terrorist attacks and provoked preachers and scholars who are now restive and unbound. Some former militants have renounced violence and formed political parties.
This new atmosphere has elevated piety — and public expressions of it — to an important social barometer. Egyptian men have been distinguished by the callused brown spots on their foreheads that come from years of prostrating themselves. Police officers and Egypt Air flight attendants are now demanding the right to grow beards, which was forbidden under Mubarak. [Emphasis added]
The liberal Wafd party, one of the oldest parties in Egypt and a one-time political ally to the Muslim Brotherhood, said in a statement that it will not join Morsi’s new government and several current ministers, including Wafd party Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, a Christian, have said they will not serve in the new cabinet if asked.
Unfortunately, that leaves pro-democracy activists and Christians with little or no official power.
The L.A. Times concludes with the statistic that about 29% of Egypt’s population is between 15 and 29, and with the ever-shrinking job market, many worry they have offended God.
Albadry explained: “They’re more willing to go to mosques and seek advice from religious scholars [than before]…But a lot of religious scholars are not necessarily angels and they have not always interpreted wisely.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
(H/T: Weasel Zippers)
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