Salafism: A Year Later

By Yasmine Nagaty, OPINIONS EDITOR



Last year, I wrote an opinion entitled “Down with the Salafis”, outlining the reasons I discredit Salafism. A year later, as we continue to accumulate many more stories to add to the cutting of ears, it is important to be aware of the dynamics of this movement.

I continue, like most of us at AUC, to oppose the Salafist movement in Egypt as a religious political party. After the engaging events surrounding presidential candidate Abu Ismail’s eligibility, it is only safe to conclude that an alleged Islamist movement does not have to be credited just because it is based on a religion that may be deemed to those it appeals to, as perfect. I will disregard for a minute, my position on Islamic governance generally and the manner in which Salafism ought to be rejected in consideration of their position on various issues such as Coptic rights. Even to Muslims, an Islamist who claims religiosity and then is proved to be a systematic liar has no place as their representative.

Of course double standards are characteristic of every tenant of society, so it is really no surprise that the very man who has claimed the revolution as sinful is the very man high jacking it. Much can be said about Abu Ismail. However, I am more concerned with us as general Egyptians than with political leaders. This leads me to add one observation about Salafis a year on from the revolution.

Although many of you, like I, may have had heated clashes with one Salafi or another, I have also learned that many are open and willing to listen to alternative points of view. I had a long conversation with a Salafi taxi driver who was open to listening to my argument regarding why Abu Ismail ought not become Egypt’s next president.

And as against Salafism as I am, I do not believe in fascistic eradication of the movement. I hold extreme opinions on Salafis who transgress legal and ethical standards of behavior. Therefore, I have not and will not tolerate a Salafi who gives himself/herself the right to judge my manner of dress, for instance. What we can tolerate is a Salafi who, despite having radically different stances, is open and sensible to different points of view.

This is the essence of democracy. A common criticism of anti-Salafists is that they advocate democracy while demeaning Islamists. This is not always true and it is in fact wrong to demean an ideology if you are not willing to converse and interact with its advocates. Criticism is a responsibility and before any ideology or movement could be criticized, it is only reasonable that you are tolerant of its voices before you can oppose them.