Calls for Egyptians not to send their children to military service are considered an act of “treason and abandoning the homeland”, the government institution Dar Al-Ifta said on Sunday.
The comments came after Muslim Brotherhood leader Gamal Heshmat told Turkish-owned news agency Anadolu that “Egyptians should prevent their relatives from joining the army”. He argued that there is evidence that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his regime “were the ones who killed the Egyptian Prosecutor General”.
Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat died last week from injuries he sustained in a bombing that targeted his car.
The interview, which was published last Thursday, also featured Heshmat saying that the “truth was revealed concerning the crimes of the police and the army”. He added that those conscripted soldiers died without protection from their superiors.
Last Wednesday, violent clashes between Islamist militants and members of the Egyptian army resulted in the killing of “17 army personnel and 13 injuries”, according the Egyptian state’s official narrative. The army also claimed that it had killed more than 200 militants in action.
Dar Al-Ifta, which is the official entity in Egypt responsible for interpreting the Quran and issuing religious edicts (fatwas), said the calls are close enough to being “high treason”. The institution also claimed that the calls are “standing on the same side with the Islamic State”.
“The statement supports the efforts of the Islamic State to target the police and military apparatuses,” Dar Al-Ifta said, adding that members of the Muslim Brotherhood were supportive of the army “when they were in power”.
However, the Sunni organisation added, the group started opposing the army “when it sided with the people”.
Dar Al-Ifta added that “refusing to do the military service is religiously forbidden, and security is a main pillar of the Muslim society”. It also said that the Islamic Shari’a law asserted the importance of “Jihad”, and the role of armies in blocking invasions and enemies.
Dar Al-Ifta has been lobbying against the ideology of “Islamic State”, forming a committee to monitor and counter “unusual” fatwas. In its statement, it said: “Jihad under the flag of a state is a duty in the case of an aggression against the homeland.”
Similar to all Egyptian public institutions, Dar Al-Ifta called on Egyptians to support the police and army in “their fight against terrorism”.
Heshmat, alongside other Brotherhood members, has formed a parallel parliament in Turkey to oppose the Al-Sisi government, following the military-led ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
He is one of the most important anti-government lobbyists outside Egypt. An example of his latest activity was his letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, asking her to cancel her meeting with Al-Sisi last June.
However, his comments on conscription are not the first of their kind. After Morsi’s ouster and the involvement of army’s ground forces in dispersals and raids, anti-government forces heavily attacked the army, describing it as a tool of the regime.
Many youth movements, such as Students Against the Coup (SAC) and Ultras Nahdawy, have launched campaigns demanding from its members not to “report to the military after finishing their school years”. They asked their members not be a part of a “military that kills its own people”.
Under Egyptian law, males of a specific age are obliged to undertake military service, with a period ranging from one to three years.
Soldiers can spend their draft in the army or the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF). Males of lower educational levels serve in the CSF, a paramilitary force responsible for fighting riots and guarding embassies.
However, conscientious objection and refusing to serve in the military is not an established trend in Egyptian society, as the army is considered one of the main pillars of the modern Egyptian state.
The law states that the police or the military police have the right to arrest those who do not serve, and that these individuals could possibly receive a two year prison sentence, in addition to paying a fine of between EGP 2,000 and EGP 5,000.
The CSF has largely been the main force for the Egyptian government to control the streets since the early 1960s. As a part of the military service’s draft policy, the CSF has been one of the most controversial government-run organisations in the country.
CSF conscripts work under extremely difficult conditions, and have repeatedly voiced objections to mistreatment by superior officers.