Women battle “morality police” in Egypt
Michael De Dora
Posted on January 11, 2012
A vigilante group of ultra-conservative Salafi Muslim men in Egypt has been harassing women’s clothing shop owners, barbers, and their customers in rural towns around the country for selling “indecent” clothing and shaving Muslim men’s beards, according to the news outlet Bikya Masar. The so-called “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” modeled after Saudi Arabia’s morality police, claims they are enforcing “God’s law.”
However, Egyptian residents are not accepting the group’s orders without a fight. According to Bikya Masar:
… when they burst into a beauty salon in the Nile delta town of Benha this week and ordered the women inside to stop what they were doing or face physical punishment, the women struck back, whipping them with their own canes before kicking them out to the street in front of an astonished crowd of onlookers.
… the women … found support on the streets as well as online, with one amused reader suggesting that women should be deputized to protect the revolution’s democratic values.
And Egypt’s Muslim leaders are disavowing the group:
Sunni sheiks from Cairo’s respected Al Azhar mosque and university called an emergency meeting January 4 to discuss the problem, and declared that the Salafi morality police had no legitimate or legal authority on the street, according to Ahramonline.
Two days later, Egyptian former mufti Nasr Farid who was once responsible for issuing religious edicts or fatwas based on Sharia law agreed, stating that the young vigilantes were usurping state authority and did not have the jurisdiction to impose their concept of religious law.
Still, the so-called morality police plans to press ahead with its plans:
Shop owners were told … that all retail businesses should expect regular and surprise inspections to check for compliance.
The young members of the morality police held their first meeting this week, according to a report in the Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, “to determine the tasks and geographical jurisdictions of the first volunteers, who would monitor people’s behavior in the street and assess whether they contradicted God’s laws. Volunteers would wear white cloaks and hold bamboo canes to beat violators and later would be provided with electric tasers.”
Electric tasers. Wonderful.