Student murder stokes fears of Egypt’s Islamists
By Hamza Hendawi, AP, Jul 4, 2012
CAIRO (AP)—Three bearded men approached a university student and his girlfriend during a romantic rendezvous in a park and ordered them to separate because they weren’t married, according to security officials. An argument broke out, ending with one of the men fatally stabbing the student.
The June 25 attack has alarmed Egyptians concerned that with an Islamist president in office, vigilante groups are feeling emboldened to enforce strict Islamic mores on the streets.
Islamists, including members of one-time violent groups, were empowered after last year’s ouster of Hosni Mubarak’s secular regime by a popular uprising. They formed political parties and won about 70 percent of parliament seats in elections held some six months ago, although a court dissolved the legislature.
Moderate Muslims along with liberal and women’s groups now worry that Mohammed Morsi’s presidency will eradicate what is left of Egypt’s secular traditions and change the social fabric of the mainly Muslim nation of 82 million people.
Some activists say Islamists already are flexing their muscles in areas outside Cairo and other main cities, taking advantage of the absence of civil society groups and tenuous security in the areas.
They cite reports of efforts to persuade drivers of communal taxis, mostly minibuses that can seat up to 16, to segregate women and men passengers. In some instances, women’s hairdressing salons were told to get rid of male employees or threatened with closure.
“If Islamists are to try and take over the streets and enforce their version of Islam, they will do it in rural areas, at least initially,” said Yara Sallam from Nazra, a women’s rights group.
Rights groups say they have sent teams to investigate the Suez killing and establish whether Islamists were behind the attacks.
On the same day, two musicians, who were brothers, were murdered as they were traveling home after performing at a wedding in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiyah, officials said. Radical Muslims consider music “haram” or prohibited, as a distraction from religious duties.
Some activists believe that the Brotherhood is at least quietly condoning nonviolent activity designed to bring the country more in alignment with Islam’s teachings—a founding goal of the 84-year-old fundamentalist movement.
“They may not be involved but they are turning a blind eye to what their low and middle rank members do on the streets,” said Nehad Abul-Omsan of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.
“What they do is like test balloons for their leaders. If society stands up to what they do, then they know it is not time yet to Islamize. If people accept it, then they ask them to do more. What we need is a clear and public commitment to freedoms by the leaders of Islamic groups.”
About 100 activists, political parties and non-governmental groups have issued a statement calling on Morsi to protect women against what it said was growing incidents of harassment, particularly against those not wearing the Muslim veil.
Egypt has for more than 40 years been preoccupied with dealing with the threat posed by radicals seeking to create an Islamic state in the country. Mubarak, backed by the U.S., used that threat to maintain tight control over the country.
Morsi, 60, has not mentioned implementing Islam’s Shariah law since he narrowly won the presidential race. That was a departure from his hard-line Islamic rhetoric in the run-up to the first round of voting in May, when the field of 13 candidates included several Islamists, causing many to accuse him of pandering to voters and seeking support from secular political groups in his power struggle with the military.