Shi’as, Salafis…and Sheep

Rana Allam
6 Min Read
Rana Allam
Managing editor Rana Allam
Rana Allam

Living in a country populated by people both gifted with a strong sense of humour and beset by stark contradictions, following the news can put one in a predicament of whether to laugh out loud or shed bloody tears. I thought this week I would like to recap on some dark comedy material that hit the news over the past couple of weeks.

–  A heated debate over Shi’a tourism in Egypt took place in the Shura Council. Salafi MPs attacked Shi’as in a way I have never imagined possible. Their accusations went as far as calling Shi’as a “threat to national security”, and alleging that “Iranians use money and women to pursue their goals”. According to our Salafi bunch, Shi’ism “is the most corrupt of doctrines”.  Of course, the Jews had to be included in the insults: “Shi’as are more dangerous to the Islamic nation than even the Jews”, as MPs stated.  In some accounts that I have not been able to verify, Salafi MPs stated that “Shi’as are more dangerous to Egypt than naked women” (!!). The funny part is that after these insults, they expect to be able to “convert Egypt’s Shi’a minority, bringing them into the Sunni fold”, as one of them insisted. Now, our minister of Tourism said he “wants a piece of the pie” of Iranian tourism, and this is how he puts it (!). To calm these raging dogmatic brains, the minister has assured them that “Iranians will be visiting the country under tight security regulations, and they will be barred from visiting Shi’a sights”. So you insult them, call them infidels and terrorists, put them under tight security if they visit, and deprive them of the sightseeing they want … yet you expect a “piece of the pie”? Seriously?!

–  In another news piece, Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya has demanded their removal from US terror list (FTO), as well as the release of their spiritual leader Omar Abdel Rahman. Abdel Rahman is serving a life sentence in US prisons for his connection with the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. Another leading figure of the organisation is Abbud Al-Zomor, who planned the killing of the Nobel Peace Laureate and late Egyptian President, Anwar El Sadat for brokering peace with Israel. Right after the January revolution, Al-Zomor was released from Egyptian prisons, and went on TV to declare that killing Sadat was the right thing to do and that they would do it again. Further, one of the group’s leading members is Assem Abdel Maged who is responsible for the killing of tens of police officers and civilians in Assiut after the aforementioned assassination. Abbud Al-Zomor’s brother, Tarek, is also a leading figure in the Jamaa and its political party the Building and Development Party. Yes, the Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya has a political party that had MPs in the (thankfully) dissolved Egyptian Parliament. I am not sure which is funniest: the fact that Assem Abdel Maged is leading Al-Jamaa’s initiative to honour the police and renounce violence; that they want to be removed from the FTO list after their long bloody history; or the fact that it is not so farfetched that the US would agree to that, given the American support for the very Muslim Brotherhood regime which allows Al-Jamaa to be part of the political and media scenes in Egypt.

–  Of the many inexplicable actions of our ruling organisation, the Muslim Brotherhood, is their continuous “opposition” behaviour which never fails to amuse me. Going on “protests” in support of themselves and their president. Always hilarious!

–  The latest farce was the “Tagarod” (Impartiality) campaign, in response to the Tamarod (Rebel) campaign launched by revolutionary youth to collect signatures from Egyptians for a show of no confidence in the president. Now, Tagarod’s aim is to collect signatures in support of the president, demanding he remains in office until the end of his term –  the “opposition” of the “opposition”!

–  I shall end the roundup with the greatest joke of all: the infamous sheep that found its way into exam papers. Basically, an English language teacher was referred to questioning by the police for setting an exam question that “insulted” Morsi. The question was to translate from Arabic to English the following quote: “In the animal kingdom, a sheep cannot be king.” The teacher insisted that this is part of the curriculum set by the ministry. The backdrop of this accusation is that critics of the current regime (be they average Egyptians or columnists), often refer to Morsi/Muslim Brotherhood supporters as “sheep” for their slavish devotion to their Supreme Guide. Now, of course, the question that remains unanswered, has the word “sheep” in any context become illegal?

This is what the space of this column allows me to cite, but rest assured that the list goes on and on and on… and as a journalist, you lose a bit of your mind every day!

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