Monday, June 27, 2011

Battle for the Nur Mosque

The Egyptian Gazette reports that Egypt's Salafis are staging a protest for control of Cairo's high-profile Nur Mosque:
"A high-pitched voice at the back of the ornate Al-Nour (The Light) Mosque shouts through a megaphone: 'This is time for us to claim our rights to this mosque. We must get our rights.' A deep-throated roar immediately follows, as the crowd chants: 'Yes, we must get our rights.'

"The congregation of around 3,000 attending the main Islamic event of the week, Friday midday prayers, surges forward in what amounts to a coup against the mosque's established religious order...

"We will all fight for our rights,” they chanted, bringing many of the worshippers to tears – not just young men clad in white religious gowns and headgear, but also many of the snappily dressed men and boys, seemingly an amalgam of different strata of Egyptian society...

"The initial call that transformed an orderly prayer session into a powerful expression of political Islam had come from Sheikh Hafez Salama, a strong opponent of secularism...

"That Al-Nour Mosque should be the main source of the outburst of anti-State sentiment and pro-Salafist control in this city of 16 million people is hardly surprising.

"Every Friday for the past eight weeks, there has been a struggle over who will control the pulpit from where the key religious message of the week is delivered.

"As such, it has been the site of a portentous tug-of-war pitting hardline Salafists, who support an austere form of Islam, against the much more moderate line adopted by religious institutions that for decades have been under firm Government control.

"Sensing that the momentum was with them, the hardline worshippers marched outside the mosque and expressed their determination to take matters inside the mosque into their own hands and impose their full control."

As the excerpts above indicate, Egypt has an official religious establishment managed by the government. The Salafis prospered at unlicensed mosques, often out in open streets, with preachers who often have connections to Saudi Arabia. That they are now moving to take over some of the official mosques is unsurprising.



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