Yasser al-Burhami recently did an interview with Egypt’s Al Ahram. He is one of the most prominent figures of Egypt's Salafi movement, and the vice chairman of The Salafi Calling, one of two major Salafi societies in Egypt, a society that was declared official a year ago, following the ousting of Mubarak, and which the "Al Nour" Salafist Political Party, that managed to obtain 24% of parliamentary seats in the 2012, post revolution Egyptian parliament elections, emerged from. Burhami explains that after a long history of avoiding any participation in Egypt's political life, further deeming political/democratic practices as blasphemous and heretical, and even though they had little to nothing to do with any revolutionary movement—as Salafism denounces any rebellion against a Muslim ruler, however unjust he is towards his people, (their concept being that if he is just, there is no point in changing him, and if he is unjust, the subjects may resort to patience and prayers for him to correct his ways, or… well… die)—they decided to take part, simply because before the revolution, any political participation would have been a "decorative one, with no effect whatsoever, while supporting and illegitimate regime, and gaining limited popularity," Burhami stated.
Burhami was asked about the groups of bearded men who currently stroll the streets trying to propagate virtue according to Islamic laws, following the model of KSA's "Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice", even adopting the same name, and after three of these men killed Ahmed Hussein, an engineering student in the city of Suez, whom they stopped in the street to ask how he is related to the girl in his company, and when he explained that she was his fiancée and showed a ring in both their hands, they told him not to walk alone with her again, with one guy stroking Ahmed's thigh repeatedly with a baton, an act that enraged the young engineer and made him respond that "it's none of their business,” at which point one of the guys took out a cutter and stabbed him in "a sensitive part of his body", saying mockingly "Let's see how you'll show her you are man now.” This came days after a group of bearded men killed two brothers in Sharqiya, allegedly in objection to their non-virtuous job as wedding -musicians, and days before an armed attack on a billiard hall frequented by teenagers that left a number of them wounded.
Burhami’s response was that he never heard of such a group—even though he is the man who knows every Salafist group in Egypt. He claimed that it was a bunch of non-Salafis who got together and committed these act with the end of defaming Islamists and tarnishing their name, subtly referring to a theory that some were promoting on social networks that security forces are behind these acts.
When asked if he thinks that mistakes committed by some Salafis may lead to Muslim Brotherhood's failure, having lost credibility in the street in part because of them, he stated that Salafis are only human and they make mistakes, and it is not fair to label every member's mistake as a Salafi mistake, and Al Nour Party does not excuse those who commit them as they are usually dismissed from the party's membership.
In answer to a question about the points of disagreement between Salafis and Muslim brotherhood, in terms of political practice, al-Burhami said that they agree on several issues. For instance, that Egypt must be a civil state, as opposed to military—even though civil for them does not mean secular; because a secular state contradicts Islam, which is a comprehensive religion that sets the rules for all aspects of life, including politics.
Notwithstanding, the Salafi Movement does not agree to the appointment of a woman or a Coptic Christian as vice president, first because this defies Sharia, and it has no precedent in Egyptian history; also because Egypt is a country with a Muslim majority. According to Burhami, this is a tradition observed all over the world, "You will never see a Muslim vice-president in America or in a European country. They [western countries] even disapprove of the participation of Muslims in politics; they similarly disapproved the presence of muezzins and Islamic veil; it is about the personal liberty they advocate. Also, the majority of Egyptians will not accept such an appointment," said Burhami, concluding with another point of disagreement between them and the Muslim Brotherhood, as the Muslim Brotherhood do not see that there is a big difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, while Salafis think Shiites are a "heretic group and there is a great risk of importing their beliefs to our territory, that is why combating them is very important."
Originally published by Al Ahram, July 5th; translated by Coptic Solidarity
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