Islam and Non-belief in Egypt

azharmosqueThere is an interesting article today in Albawaba (a Jordanian based news and media site that publishes in both english and Arabic). In it a Egyptian parent laments about the effect that the rise of fanatical Islam is having upon the younger generation … apparently they are all turning away and rejecting it

“Son, it is time for Friday prayers, you will be late.”

“I am not going.”

“What? Why?”

“I am just…not going. I will pray here at home.”

And a discussion began where my friend pushed to know why her 17-year-old refused to go to mosque. After much coaxing, the boy said: “Why should I go where the imam keeps making me feel like an atheist, where my political ideology is under question and evaluated from a religious perspective, with the conclusion that I am an atheist?”

My friend stopped there. She was cornered and her son doesn’t go to the mosque anymore.

Another similar incident was with a mother of a 13-year-old, where her son refused to go pray at the mosque because the imam kept slandering unveiled women and the boy couldn’t take any more insults to his mother.

Egypt is right now rapidly descending into a rather stark period of extremism and intolerance that will polarize their society and yield the religious fascism that we have come to expect whenever Islam rises up to dominance. Egyptians who do not believe, or simply hold different variations of belief are living in fear as they watch this all unfold. The problem here is this; how exactly do you challenge those who claim to speak for and represent a god, to do so is not simply to set yourself up in opposition to a different ideology, but rather to oppose the will of a god. In essence, the moderate beliefs of most have been hijacked. A climate in which to simply crack a joke about or disagree with a popular Muslim figure on some subject will trigger an extremist reaction. We have already seen this …

When a furious mob attacked Alber Saber’s house in September, calling for his death and accusing him of burning the Koran and promoting the film The Innocence of Muslims on social networks, his mother phoned the police. On arriving, the police arrested him instead of his attackers, forced him to sign documents he hadn’t read and left him alone with other detainees at the police station after inciting violence against him

So what is going on here? The police reportedly did not find any evidence of the original charges, yet he has been sentenced to three years in jail … for what? His only crime so far is that he does not believe and openly says he does not. Alber Saber had very much wanted to have his say on the matter, but did not get the chance. Although he should have been released as soon as his bail was posted immediately following the December 12 sentence, he was held for unexplained reasons until December 17: too late to cast his ballot in the December 15 round of the referendum in Cairo. His appeal trial has been scheduled for January 26

His is not an isolated example, the concerns regarding basic human rights abuses in Egypt are rising, however hope yet remains, there is an election coming soon on January 25. Perhaps even the moderate Muslims will do the right thing and vote these kooks out. If they don’t, then their children face a rather stark choice, either abandon their moderate form of Islam completely, or fully embrace the now rising fanatical form that is taking shape. Why such a choice? Well because the extremism will not tolerate any moderation, you are either fully in or out.

The Moderate Muslim writing the article in Albawaba today faces this choice, it is happening now

A shocking moment for me was when my 12-year-old suddenly started disrespecting sheikhs. Although I am not exactly a model of religiosity myself, it pained me to see such disdain from my boy towards those who are supposed to be holy men. And the worst part was that I could not defend the sheikhs, given that I do not want him to listen to the monstrosities these men utter.

We are now all torn between the reality of our religion, and the message coming from the bearded bunch. What are we supposed to tell our kids? Listen to the sheikh, or don’t listen? Go to the mosque, or don’t go? Should we monitor every speech they hear, every imam of every mosque, and pick a suitable rhetoric? Or should we drop this religious education altogether?

Now mothers are wondering what happens when their sons stop going to mosque every week. What happens if the religious curriculum at schools is modified to fit the ultra right-wing, conservative and mostly distorted ideology of our rulers? What happens when our children are pushed away from their religion?

Our rulers are letting those who defame and deform our religion speak in mosques and on television. They are leaving those who want to form morality police to do as they please on the streets.

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