This story will make the most provocative rhetoric from Capitol Hill look tame and demonstrate it’s not only American politicians who crave publicity. An Egyptian member of parliament from the hardline Islamist Salafi party provoked an uproar Tuesday when he stood up in the middle of legislative proceedings and began chanting his afternoon Muslim prayers. Loudly.
His action angered the speaker of the parliament, startled fellow lawmakers, and evoked embarrassment from those sitting nearby. Shortly after he began his chants, other members of parliament got up and tried to gently coax him into leaving.
MEMRI – the Middle East Media Research Institute - translated the video and reports:
In the middle of proceedings during yesterday's [Tuesday’s] session of the Egyptian parliament, Salafi MP Mamdouh Ismail suddenly stood up from his bench and gave the call to the afternoon asr prayer, which is usually given from mosque minarets. Parliamentary speaker Saad Al-Katatny reacted angrily.
Those curious about a Muslim Brotherhood effort to bring Islam into the legislative process might be encouraged to know Sa’ad Al-Katatny, the speaker who criticized MP Ismail vehemently, repeatedly shouting at him to "Sit down!" is himself a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood-founded Freedom and Justice Party. Here is an excerpt of the exchange that MEMRI translated and transcribed:
Parliamentary speaker: "I did not authorize you to do this. We have a mosque. You can call to prayer there."
Mamdouh Ismail: "…I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah…"
Speaker: "Mr. Mamdouh Ismail, when you finish calling to prayer, I will have to speak with you, because you have violated the protocol of this session."
Mamdouh Ismail: "…come to prayer, come to success. Allah Akbar, Allah Akbar. There is no God but Allah."
Speaker: "MP Mahmdouh Ismail has violated the protocol of this session. He used the time given to him to call to prayer without asking my permission. There is a mosque where you can call to prayer. This hall is for talking. Don't you patronize us. You are no more Muslim than us. Prayer is no less important to us than it is to you."
The speaker seemed to accuse Ismail of playing to the cameras:
Speaker: "This place is not for calling to prayer. If you want to call to prayer, excuse yourself… Go and call to prayer at the mosque. This is not the hour of prayer. You are a respected lawyer. Do you need all this attention from the media?
Ismail told reporters after the session that he was concerned proceedings were running so long he would miss his afternoon, or Asr prayers. Devout Muslims pray five times a day. The third prayer – for which Ismail claimed he was late – is the Asr afternoon prayer.
After the session, Ismail said, "We are not in the Vatican, this is a Muslim country, we need to pray on time." Adding that the politicians had been missing many prayers during the parliamentary sessions, he said, "I asked the speaker several times to organize the parliamentary sessions around prayer times... [He] agreed and said he would take action, but he never followed through. His reply to me was like that of a dictator, even though he was in the wrong."
Ismail told the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that:
…it would be a disgrace to the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament if he is punished, and that he had been surprised by the attack on him by Muslim Brotherhood MPs. He added that the Muslim Brotherhood, whose alliance occupies nearly 47 percent of seats, wants to steer the assembly according to its will, and that the group’s members would not have objected had it been one of them who had given the call to prayer.
The Egyptian parliament is made up of almost three-fourths Islamist members. The Democratic Alliance, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, won almost 47 percent of seats, and the Salafi Nour party won 24 percent of seats. If he wasn’t well-known before, Member of Parliament Mamdouh Ismail is now likely a household name in Egypt.
Watch the video translated courtesy of MEMRI: