Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday appointed as governor of Luxor a member of the notorious terrorist organization Gamaa Islamiya which claimed responsibility for the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists and four Egyptians in Luxor.
The new governor is Adel al-Khayyat of the Building and Development party, the political wing of what was once the active terrorist group Gamaa Islamiya of which he was a founding member.
Morsi’s move was met with disbelief among some Egyptians and outright anger from the local tourism industry, already suffering from a post-“Arab Spring” decline in visitors to Egypt.
Ten years ago, the group renounced violence as a means to promote its Islamist aims, but a fatwa found on its website advises against building tourist accommodations. “Because tourist villages have aspects that anger Allah, including alcohol, gambling and other forbidden things, building these hotels and villages is considered aiding their owners in sin and aggression, and is not permitted,” read the fatwa, according to the New York Times. Its supporters also oppose sunbathing and women wearing shorts.
The group - which in the past received support from Al Qaeda - terrorized Egyptians and tourists during a wave of violence in the 1990s that left hundreds dead. Its spiritual leader is the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S.
The new appointment has upset those in Luxor who earn their living from tourism. According to Britain’s The Independent, hoteliers and tour operators in Luxor are protesting Morsi’s decision.
It reports that crowds protested outside the governor’s office on Monday, while tourism industry leaders planned to meet to decide how best to respond. Among the ideas being debated: picketing the governor’s office to physically stop him from entering or trying to block his arrival at Luxor airport on Tuesday.
Manager of Viking Travel Mohamed Abdel Samir said, “This decision is completely wrong.”
“This is not a suitable man for Luxor at all,” he told the paper.
Luxor is one of Egypt’s main tourist attractions, is home to well-preserved ancient temples along the Nile River and sits near the ornate royal burial sites, the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Walter Russell Mead of the American Interest writes, “This is a boneheaded move for a country that relies so heavily upon tourism for its economic well-being.”
Morsi appointed 17 new governors on Sunday, seven of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a move being viewed as an effort to tighten his grip on power in advance of major anti-government protests scheduled for June 30.
AFP quoted Al-Masri Al-Yom which writes that the appointments are a sign of the "continued Islamization" of state bodies, and represents a "challenge to the planned demonstration” against Morsi at the end of the month.