Spiritual and Archaeological Tourism Threatened in Egypt?

Earlier this week I was talking about Pagan responses to threats against pre-Christian/pagan sites and artifacts, and now Chas Clifton points to an article from The Media Line (reprinted in several places) on rising hostility in Egypt against Western tourism, and calls to cover up famous objects from the Pharaonic period of ancient Egypt.

Osirid statues near Luxor.

Abd Al-Munim A-Shahhat, a spokesman for the Salafi group Dawa, has said that Egypt’s world-renowned pharaonic archeology – its pyramids, Sphinx and other monuments covered with un-Islamic imagery – should also be hidden from the public eye. “The pharaonic culture is a rotten culture,” A-Shahhat told the London-based Arabic daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, saying the faces of ancient statues “should be covered with wax, since they are religiously forbidden.” He likened the Egyptian relics to the idols which circled the walls of Mecca in pre-Islamic times.

The article also notes that Islamist groups in Egypt have long been hostile to the tourism industry, but these sentiments were suppressed under Mubarak’s oppressive regime. Now, however, Egyptian xenophobia and paranoia seem to be blossoming, with government officials harassing foreigners.

Micah Trau, an American who has been studying Arabic with a private tutor for the past three months, decided that after being questioned twice, he would just leave. “I couldn’t take it,” he tells The Media Line from his home in Seattle. “I was there to study the language and the culture, but after being told I was a spy on three occasions I just thought it was time to get out of there before anything worse happened.”

Tourism in Egypt is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is hardly a revenue stream rising Egyptian leaders want to blithely throw away. While hardliners in the local Salafi movement may be calling for pagan statues to be encased in wax, the increasingly politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood seems to be trying to strike a balance between catering to tourists and pleasing Islamic factions who want to see such practices curtailed.

But [Muhammad Saad] Al-Katatny [secretary-general of Freedom and Justice] said that the Muslim Brotherhood regards Egypt’s archeology as belonging to all of humanity, and should therefore be safeguarded. “This heritage belongs to everyone, and one can’t simply remove something he doesn’t like,” he told Al-Ahram daily.

International travel agencies have so far rejected the idea of any restrictions on tourism, and low-price tours are being planned to encourage tourists back to Egypt, hoping to reverse a dramatic downturn caused by the revolution and its aftermath. Even if tourism is allowed, and the statues remain uncovered, will there be any tolerance for the more spiritually-minded tours that draw so many seekers, Pagans, and New Age adherents?

“In this predominantly Muslim country, Egyptologist and spiritual tour guide Amro Mounir, 34, said he encounters many Egyptians who criticize his tours for practicing a form of paganism. But Mounir says the tours are about tapping into the energy of the earth and helping people find the truth.”

It is very likely that the permissive tourist industry many are used to could be coming to an end. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in 2006 Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, issued an edict (fatwa) which condemned the work of sculptors and declared un-Islamic the display of statues in homes. At the time, some predicted suicide bombings at ancient temples, though this never materialized. Now that the political climate is far more unstable, could these threats now materialize? Can more moderate and progressive elements in Egypt hold out against an Islamist tide long held back by brute force? We’ll soon see if economic pragmatism and pluralistic aspirations will win out against an energized hardline who see this as a chance to mold Egypt in their image.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • Ursyl

    Wax?? Are they for real? Would most waxes not melt in the SUN Egypt gets, what with being a desert?

    What an insult to the heritage of great scientific thinking and learning Islam used to be.

    • http://profiles.google.com/vanye111 Jason Hatter

      I would far rather they covered in wax, then used explosives to remove them entirely.

      • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

        I’d rather the explosives be used on the Salafis.

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          What we may see happening instead of was is more likely “extremist” i.e. your average Muslim whipped into a religious fervor, joining in on something like what the Taliban did to those Giant Buddhas in Afghanistan. They will simply blow up the pagan images and temples. Such things are not of Islam and by Islamic law and religion must be destroyed.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

    This is very troubling and reminds me of when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001. I hope that moderate and progressive groups, or at least the tourism industry stressing the importance of these sites to the national economy, can ensure something similar does not happen in Egypt. It would be a real tragedy to lose these sites.

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      Yeah, they might protest, but blown up is blown up, and if it’s blow up with the statues or let the statues blow up by themselves…..

  • Mr Willow

    Did anyone else recall the destruction of the Buddha in Afghanistan while reading the beginning of this?

    • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

      I did. I also recalled the prophecy of Hermes Trismegistus in the book Asclepius in the Corpus Hermeticum:
      “This land and region will be filled with foreigners; not only will men neglect the service of the gods, but … ; and Egypt will be occupied by Scythians or Indians or by some such race from the barbarian countries thereabout. In that day will our most holy land, this land of shrines and temples, be filled with funerals and corpses. To thee, most holy Nile, I cry, to thee I foretell that which shall be; swollen with torrents of blood, thou wilt rise to the level of thy banks, and thy sacred waves will be not only stained, but utterly fouled with gore.”

    • anne johnson

      I was thinking the same thing, and I also think the Chinese destroyed some temples in Burma.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Made my comment above before reading yours… wasn’t there another statue destroyed in Malaysia, as well?

      • Mr Willow

        Yes, it is happening everywhere. One of Islam’s tenets, from what I can gather, is to destroy any sort of idol.

        http://www.islam-qa.com/en/ref/20894

        There is a section toward the middle specifically regarding the Egyptian monuments. Apparently, the reason they still stand today is because they were covered by sand when the original disciples of Muhammed entered the area.

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      Yes indeed.

  • Anonymous

    While the story accurately reflects the views of the Salafi community in Egypt, it doesn’t mention that the Salafi’s are still only a tiny minority. Islam (especially Sunni Islam) has a deep ambivalence to images taken from nature, regarding making them as an insult to Gods power (what they call shirk). Everything will depend on how the Salafi groups end up fitting into the new democratic system in the country. So long as their political parties remain minor players they will be a vocal nuisance. However if they end up holding the balance of power in a coalition government then all bets are off. I think we should all hope that doesn’t happen

    • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      The whole “tiny minority” argument doesn’t hold up, and it never did. A non-tiny minority of Egyptians support the most extreme forms of Islamist terrorism. 20% of Egyptians stated that they supported Al Qaeda as recently as 2010. At the time this was considered good news (!!) because that represented a decrease in the level of support for Osama bin Laden in Egypt!

      But while only 20% of Egyptian Muslims support Al Qaeda, 30% support Hezbollah, and 49% support Hamas.

      Also, 54% of Egyptian Muslims support segregating all places of work based on gender. 82% support death by stoning for adulterers. 84% support executing anyone who attempts to leave the religion of Islam.

      All of this raises the question of whether or not democracy is always such a great idea.

      (2010 polling data from here. None of this is news to anyone who has had their eyes open.)

      • Anonymous

        Apologies Apuleius, I have just had a bad posting moment and replied as a seperate entry further up the list.

  • Anonymous

    While the story accurately reflects the views of the Salafi community in Egypt, it doesn’t mention that the Salafi’s are still only a tiny minority. Islam (especially Sunni Islam) has a deep ambivalence to images taken from nature, regarding making them as an insult to Gods power (what they call shirk). Everything will depend on how the Salafi groups end up fitting into the new democratic system in the country. So long as their political parties remain minor players they will be a vocal nuisance. However if they end up holding the balance of power in a coalition government then all bets are off. I think we should all hope that doesn’t happen

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Never thought I’d see the Muslim Brotherhood acting as a moderating force.

    This is a small corner, albeit an important one to us, of the general question of how Islamism will figure in the post-Arab Spring shakeout in Egypt.

    “Egyptologist and spiritual tour guide Amro Mounir, 34, said he encounters many Egyptians who criticize his tours for practicing a form of paganism. But Mounir says the tours are about tapping into the energy of the earth and helping people find the truth.” Ummm… sounds pretty Pagan to me…

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      Yeah, I saw that and the first thing that popped into my head was “Blatant Lies.” The MB is one of the more extreme organizations out there. What they’re probably trying to do is buy time for something to be planned and done to destroy the Khemetic’s sacred artifacts, then cry “Oh no, we didn’t want this to happen, but it has so Allah be Praised the Pagan Filth has been washed away.”

      • Anonymous

        All I would say is that their are always people and organisations out there that are more extreme.

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          Oh, I’m sure there are, but that’s like saying the Aryan Brotherhood is more extreme than the KKK. Both are supremacist organizations, and the Muslim Brotherhood makes both of those look like pansies. Saying that there’s someone more extreme, while true, just strikes me as a way of trying to make the first group sound less dangerous, which in this case is hardly the case.

          • Anonymous

            Oh I don’t know. For all it’s lack of tolerance the MB cannot really be compared to the KKK or Aryan Brotherhood. If it has an equivalent in the West it is more like the Dominionists in the US. The KKK’s closest equivalents are the Salafis we were discussing earlier or perhaps groups such as Jama’at al-Dawa in Pakistan. The difference is in their apparent facade of tolerance. The MB claims to intend to protect the rights of religious minorities within an Islamic constitution, whether they will I will leave up to you. The Salafis tend not to make any pretence of tolerance.

            I know that you hold strong views about Islam, but it is worth reflecting the diversity of opinion within the “extremist” milieu. Not all of these groups hold identical views, and as you yourself said “know your enemy”.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            Well, the Aryan Brotherhood/KKK example was more of an analogy than a one to one comparison of extremism. Thank you for the info on those.

            As for the Muslim Brotherhood protecting the rights of religious minorities within an Islamic constitution, I think they will. However, the key detail to remember is that under Islam’s religion and official legal code, Non-Muslim religions (with the slight exception of Christianity and Judaism) have no rights under an Islamic constitution. So they will “protect” the rights of “pagan” religions. It’s just we have no rights period, so protection looks a lot more like “Oh, bye now.”

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Let’s hope that extremists don’t destroy these statues, as they have with images of the Buddha in other locations.

  • Lw

    “84% support executing anyone who attempts to leave the religion of Islam.”

    That’s the bottom line, isn’t it. Most of the worlds troubles can be traced directly to the Abrahamic religions, one way or another. I’m sick of it, and all of them, regardless of what nationality or version.

    You can’t fix crazy, but you can legalize protections against it.

    • Lw

      Any fundamentalist is a danger to the world, to peace, to progress, and should be treated as such.

      • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

        Not when said “protections” are labeled as “hate crimes” and can literally get you arrested or killed by those you have “insulted.”

        Want to be protected from Islam? Congratulations, you have now joined the ranks of the racist Islamophobes.

        • Hugin

          And what about the racist polytheaphobes? (or al-shirk-aphobes)

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            Oh, they get lots of protections. If they are Christian, they get some passes (depending on where they do it.) If they are Muslim, they get blank checks, because, well they’re what’s known as a two fold minority: they’re non-white, and they are a “minority religion” (though I’m still trying to figure out how 1 billion + is a minority. Probably the same way the Christians are a minority). It doesn’t help that the Islamic racist polytheaphobes have plenty of people willing to go out to attack and kill anyone that does something they don’t like. And I’m not just saying that. Many Authors, cartoonists, musicians, politicians, etc have all had Fatwas (basically a Holy Rit) put out on their heads, and “any good Muslim” is supposed to go out and collect. Some of those I know about are Geert Wilders (who has one, though many have claimed he deserves it for being a “racist”) and Brad Thor, a popular fiction writer here in the US.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

    Even before the overthrow of the Mubarak government and the widespread protests, sites had been threatened by Islamic extremists who were tired of Western tourists visiting the idolatrous sites of the Pharaohs. It was not unusual that visitors going to sites such as Abdju (Abydos), one of the oldest historical sites of Pharaonic Egypt needed to go under armed escort. At one point, some extremist factions threatened that if Westerners did not stop trying to access the sites, they would blow them up.

    Egyptians for the mostpart are very proud of their cultural heritage. Dr. Zahi Hawass was instrumental in bringing that pride back to Egyptians, in spite of what any of us (or the Egyptians) might actually think about him.

    Egypt’s economy is more dependent on tourism than any other industry. Other than cotton and other agricultural products, it is really all that they have as a commodity in that country. Even through the veil of Islam, Egypt is more moderate – and largely I do not believe they are willing to give that up.

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      I do. If the Germans were willing to join with the Nazis (an any study of the history and culture of the Germans will show that they were some of the friendliest, most accepting people in all of Europe. Which was one of the reasons there were so many Jews there, having fled anti-Semitic France) then I firmly believe that the Egyptians, who have a history of antisemitism, violence against non-believers, and a “moderate view” of Islam that would make most Christian extremest either blush or feel at home, could fully give into destroying these Pagan artifacts, regardless of what it does to their economy. Religious fervor has little to do with money when the mobs start forming.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

        I hear what you are saying, Norse Alchemist. However, I would like to refer this article to a friend of mine, Dr. Amer of Mt. Mercy University, who comes from Egypt. I would love to hear his thoughts on the matter, as well as those of some of my fellow students who are from Egypt and have friends and family there.

    • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

      Are there any resources or links you’d suggest, to learn about this kind of stuff happening before?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

        Not so much websites as actual conversations that I have had with folks that have gone to Egypt and others in the egyptological community. Some of these were conversations, Djehutymonsu, that were had five or ten years ago. I was a board member of the Egyptologist’s Electronic Forum (EEF) for a number of years. I know Nigel Strudwick and his wife among others have been there studying in the Luxor and Karnak for quite a while. I can see what I can get an update from them or those close to them.. I know that many who were digging and studying in Egypt who were from the US, the UK and other parts of the EU as well as Japan, some had left, some not.

        • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

          I had a feeling that that was the case. It’s nearly impossible to find information of this nature, out of that region, least of all in English (though there probably isn’t much in Arabic either!) Thank you, and Senebty.

  • NF

    That story about the Grand Mufti was widely circulated a few years ago, and it has been used ever since by people intent on showing how intolerant Muslims are. The fact of the matter is that he was referring specifically to creating sculptures and displaying them in one’s home (which non-Muslims might not get, but is not as radical a position as it is portrayed as). Additionally, he explicitly stated that such a ruling does not and would never apply to ancient Egyptian monuments, which represent a cultural heritage that belongs to all of humanity. If anything were to ever happen to these monuments, the most outraged people would be the Egyptians themselves.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      “…he was referring specifically to creating sculptures and displaying them in one’s home…”

      How much of the 12-billion-per-year tourism industry in Egypt relies on selling little souvenir statues I wonder?

      Unlike some, I’m not trying to demonize Islam, but I do think these developments are worrying, and need to be addressed.

      • http://paosirdjhutmosu.wordpress.com Djhutmosu Si-Hathor

        I wish I could remember where it was online, but I remember having watched a short video about a workshop in Egypt where they make replicas of Egyptian statues and sarcophagi.
        I really hope things get better. Egypt deserves better, and her people deserve better.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

        The black market dollars would be a huge temptation, I think Jason. Destruction of sites and artifacts is nothing new, unfortunately. Someone relayed a story of how a small chapel which was on the inventory taken by Napopleon had simply disappeared when egyptologists were looking for it. It turned down that it was actually destroyed (razed and burned) in order to make quick lime for crops. The value for that was greater than the historical or cultural value apparently.

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          In which case we arise at a new and somewhat worrying position. If the Muslims in Egypt do start to destroy the artifacts: Do we then buy black market items in the hopes of preserving them, even though they lose much of the reference that is dearly needed to understand the ancient land of Khem?

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        Pointing out that it’s Muslims who desire a tourism industry and historical preservation. It’s the extremists that have a destructive bent.

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          Problem is that the Extremists are also Muslims and that in the current political climate out there, (Which is only getting worse by the way) the extremists are growing in both number and power.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=685041384 Fanny Fae

            The region has always had tension. However when one of the Nations in the region acts with impunity and no one does anything about it, radicalization unfortunately is able to get a foothold and to spread.

  • Anonymous

    The middle east is getting worse and the only Israel is left where one can be relatively safe and its the only democracy. North of the med is pretty safe too with plenty of good places to visit.

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      Uh, what news have you been watching/reading. Last I checked Israel was still getting hit almost daily/weekly with suicide bombers, Turkey was getting more extremist, the surrounding Muslim countries (which were rather extremist) were getting a bit furious, and Greece, Italy, and the North Med countries were getting riots from the economic collapses, and let us not even discus the North African countries. I’m not sure what your definition of safe is, but I doubt it matches with mine :P

      • Anonymous

        What news are you watching? As far as I can find, the most recent suicide bombing in Israel was April 19, 2008, at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. There have been some terror attacks since then, but hardly “daily/weekly” suicide bombings. Maybe I’m missing something, but your statement seems wildly exaggerated.

        Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs http://tinyurl.com/64h8y

        List of Palestinian Suicide Attacks on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_suicide_attacks

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Norse Alchemist may have exaggerated, but I would challenge anyone saying South Texas is “safe” if it were getting daily rocket attacks from Mexico.

          • Anonymous

            I had assumed that alaahuNakba’s point had to do with safety from government violence. Whatever you think of Israel, they definitely have the rule of law, and citizens are very unlikely to end up rotting in a hellish prison or disappearing into mass graves for disagreeing with the regime, something that cannot be said of many of Israel’s neighbors.

            I’d be curious to see how much more likely an Israeli is to die of violent causes (be it from terrorism, crime, or whatever) than an American. I think we might all be surprised. While terrorism is a horrible thing, it is not like millions are dying there from it, and Israel has a much lower crime rate than the US otherwise. It may be that, even with the danger of terrorism, Israel really is as safe, or close to as safe, or perhaps even safer than, the US.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Agreed that the Israeli justice system is better than ours assuming they don’t rendition prisoners.

            Millions don’t have to die from terrorism to make a place seem unsafer than a similar number of deaths from, say, traffic accidents. That’s why it’s called terrorism.

          • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            Wasn’t trying to exaggerate. I will admit, my info on the terrorist attacks in Israel might be a little out of date though, as there have been times when daily and weekly attacks have occurred in the last few years. That said, the Israelites do live each day wondering if they are going to get hit, and that’s not an easy way to live.

    • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

      Dunno if I would call Israel a democracy. It’s more of a theocracy.

      • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

        You say that based on what? While Israel is far from perfect, a theocracy, it is not. Israel has been a fairly secular country since it’s founding and it’s only in recent years that right-wing religious Jews have had much of a presence on the political scene.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Extreme Orthodox Jews had enough of a presence in the past to put Sabbath chains across public streets. One such decapitated a motorcyclist who was the architect who designed the Knesset building.

          I can’t give you an exact date on this story but it was told me by my Dad, who died 45 years ago.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            I never said that there wasn’t an Orthodox Jewish population in Israel since it’s founding, but there being Orthodox Jews in Israel doesn’t make the government of Israel a Theocracy (any more than a fundamentalist Christian in the US doing something comprable to the incident you describe would make the US a theocracy). For most of Israel’s past the Orthodox have been a small minority (many of whom wanted nothing to do with the modern state of Israel, seeing it as illegitimate), while your ‘stereotypical’ Israeli has been a secular Jew for whom their ‘Jewishness’ is more a matter of ethnic identity than religion. Unfortunately, in recent years the Orthodox have been growing and taking more part in and influencing Israeli politics (which seems to be part of worldwide trend in the growth and politicization of fundamentalist religious movements).

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I’m not supporting the theocracy claim. I’m challenging the relative lack of political impact of the religious in the past. I’ve never heard of a Christian zone, even in the South, that put chains across public roads on Sunday, let along got away with it.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            Are the chains being put across any random road or specifically ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods? The latter, while still problematic from an American point of view, may well not be a huge deal from an Israeli perspective. Orthodox chaining off their neighborhoods on Shabbat to prevent people from driving through, IMO, however doesn’t exactly translate into national political power. From my experience having been in Israel many times is that the ultra-orthodox in Israel, much like those in the US, tend to live in their own ghetto-ized neighborhoods, within which it is a very different world than typical Israeli society.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            AFAIK the chains were in Orthodox neighborhoods.

            I made the comparison to a hypothetical similar Christian practice in the USA, even in the South, to illlustrate what kinds of political clout it takes to be left alone whilst doing that in a nominally secular state.

  • Anonymous

    Nope, you won’t find me arguing with those figures. They are (as far as I have experienced) a fair reflection of Egyptian social views. However it is worth splitting them into three strands.

    The first relates to support for groups involved in the Israel Palestine conflict. You can’t overestimate the anger in most Arab countries over their perceptions of the ill treatment of Palestinians. This trumps religious affiliation, and so you will find Coptic Christians who worry about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt vocally supporting HAMAS (the armed wing of the MB in Palestine), and Sunni Muslims who are worried about Shi’a proselytisation in Egypt adamantly backing the Lebanese Shi’a Hizbollah. The Palestine issue tends to overcome everything.

    The second strand is social and religious conservatism. While there was a swing towards “western” dress in the 1960′s and 70′s in Cairo and Alexandria (especially in the Middle classes) there was no real attitudinal shifts to back it, and out in the countryside and in the small towns Egypt was, and is, an inherently conservative place. The attitudes to stoning adulterers and apostates reflects this. These views are not new, but instead reflect the traditional form of Islam practiced in these areas. Its not nice, but it has always been there.

    The third strand is the more worrying bit, and those are the new influences creeping in from Saudi by way of sattelite TV and Saudi religious charities. Egyptian Salafism has been around for decades, and was quite “western” leaning. However that has changed in the last ten to fifteen years. Since then the “modernist” Saudi element has grown stronger, reflected by a desire for segregated workspaces and the attitude towards “idols”. This Saudi Salafism attempts to wipe out national differences behind a manufactured view of Islamic history and theology, and is not (repeat NOT) the same as the conservative form of Islam traditionally practiced in Egypt. I may dislike both of them, but they are very different. As Saudi Salafism is so different, it hasn’t penetrated that deeply into Egyptian society beyond activist enclaves in Cairo and the other big cities.

    The best hope for the preservation of these monuments is the pride in Egypt’s history that is felt by most Egyptians, and that is deeply embedded in the Egyptian education system. The other saving grace is the fact that most Egyptians know that tourism is the biggest source of foreign currency for the country, and they are going to take some serious convincing before they turn against it.

    As for your point on democracy, Sir Winston Churchill said it best “Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” We now face the perils of popular and populist democracy in the Middle East, and it isn’t necessarily going to be pretty!

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      Thanks for the info. Still doesn’t make me feel much better about the situation, but now we know, and knowing is half the battle :D

      Go Joe!

    • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      What in blue blazes does the Palestinian issue have to do with the fact that 86% of Egyptian Muslims believe that anyone who is born a Muslim but who wishes to leave that religion should be murdered?

      Second of all, it is one thing to personally adopt conservative views on matters of dress, sexuality, etc. It is another thing altogether to wish to see those who do not conform to your ideas murdered.

      Third of all, Salafism, Schmalafism. Murderous Islamic fundamentalism comes in many flavors. When you’re being stoned to death what difference does it make which faction is leading the mob?

      Fourthly, Winston Churchill was very much opposed to the introduction of democracy in the Middle East. He felt that the people there would be better off if they continued to be ruled by Europeans. As a matter of principle I find Churchill’s position very problematic, but as the “Arab Spring” turns into the “Islamist Autumn” I’m starting to wonder if the old boy didn’t perhaps have a point.

      • Anonymous

        The comment about the Palestinian issue was in direct response to your stats on support for HAMAS and Hizbollah. Anything that touches on the Palestine question is sui generis. The support for these groups is linked to perceptions of what is happening there rather than a generic support for terrorism. Of the stats you gave the 20% support for AQ is far more worrying.

        Apostasy is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and until such time as a version of Islam becomes common that allows for a more contextual interpretation of its teachings we are going to have to live with a faith where the majority of its followers regard leaving the religion as a crime worthy of death.

        On the question of why we need to know about these groups, I personally believe that knowing more about those who oppose you is always useful. At its most basic its worth noting that the MB will tend to use political means, while the Salafi groups appear more likely to use street confrontations and violence, can help prioritise responses (that, of course, does not mean that the MB is not a threat in the longer term).

        As for Churchill, he was a deeply complex character whose political reputation was only really redeemed by his long term concern at the threat from Fascism. If you look at his views on the Empire, especially India, he was an unreconstructed man of his time and class. As for the Middle East, I personally believe that given time these states can reach some sort of equilibrium, but we aren’t going to particularly going to enjoy the process that gets us there.

        • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          “Apostasy is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and until such time as a version of Islam becomes common that allows for a more contextual interpretation of its teachings we are going to have to live with a faith where the majority of its followers regard leaving the religion as a crime worthy of death.”

          Except that there’s a catch twenty-two here. Everything I have read about Islam says that if you change a single thing about it, according to Islam, it is no longer Islam. Therefore, should there be those that say they are Muslims but feel it is okay for people to leave Islam, according to the religion, they are no longer Muslims and no longer practicing Islam. In other words, it is a theological impossibility for Islam to change to the point where people can leave it without the religion and it’s believers dictating death for Apostasy. :(

        • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Tearlach: “Apostasy is explicitly forbidden in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and until such time as a version of Islam becomes common that allows for a more contextual interpretation of its teachings we are going to have to live with a faith where the majority of its followers regard leaving the religion as a crime worthy of death.”

          And until such time (if it ever comes, and there is no sign of it ever coming) a very simple equation must be accepted an incontrovertibly true:

          More Islam = Less Freedom

          Therefore, anyone and everyone committed to the causes of individual liberty, human equality and liberal democracy should unapologetically oppose the religion of Islam and its spread anywhere and everywhere on earth.

        • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Tearlach: “The comment about the Palestinian issue was in direct response to your stats on support for HAMAS and Hizbollah. Anything that touches on the Palestine question is sui generis. The support for these groups is linked to perceptions of what is happening there rather than a generic support for terrorism. Of the stats you gave the 20% support for AQ is far more worrying.”

          There are two problems with what you are saying. First, the support for AQ shows that there is clearly a broad acceptance for terrorism in its most naked form. This undermines the claim that people support Hamas and Hezbollah only out of sympathy for plight of the Palestinians, because it shows that many of those people support violent Jihadism itself.

          Second, if support for Hezbollah and Hamas were based on high-minded opposition to the oppression of the Palestinians, then we would find similar levels of support for other oppressed groups in the Middle East. How much sympathy is there, for example, for the Copts in Egypt?

          So support for Hezbollah and Hamas is just more evidence for the broad popularity of violent Jihad among the Muslim masses.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “[...I]f support for Hezbollah and Hamas were based on high-minded opposition to the oppression of the Palestinians, then we would find similar levels of support for other oppressed groups in the Middle East. How much sympathy is there, for example, for the Copts in Egypt?”

            That would be true if people were logical and consistent. If people were logical and consistent the United States would have relieved the plight of the American Indian at the same time it was breaking up Jim Crow. We didn’t.

            Conclusion: People aren’t logical and consistent.

          • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            But there actually has been a logical consistency in the broadening of the concept of equality in America. We began pretty much where the Athenians and Romans had left off. But soon the sphere of equality was widened to include “the common man” (so long as he is white), and not just the propertied classes. And then this was widened even further to include (on paper, anyway) Blacks, and then women. Today the exceptions to the rule of equality, at least in principle, are truly the exceptions, whereas in 1776 the vision of “government of the people” explicitly excluded the large majority of the people.

            Where is there a single Muslim society, anywhere on earth, that shows even the faintest glimmer of hope that it might follow the same path?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The point is not why they don’t have a liberal secular state but why they have the attitudes they do toward different minorities.

    • Merofled Ing

      From what I´ve seen in the papers here, the main problem is that the various extreme groups – be they Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi Salafism, or rural conservative – seem to be overcoming their differences while the moderate forces apparently can´t. This became obvious recently (the article was 8/13/2011) when they were discussing the separation of religion and state in the new constituion currently being drafted. At first it seemed that a clear majority wanted this, but by now the outcome looks rather like a non-separation, with the extreme groups presenting a united front. This does look bad.

      Another problem is that the USA and the EU or its members aren´t really in a position to help. With the various debt crises around, money is tight, and diplomatic intervention has become difficult for many reasons, for years.
      Right now the only chances at influence I suppose lie in a cooperation of institutions like the universities. This could give western scholars access to Egyptian excavation sites, the universities there would get access to advanced preservation and dating technologies, and financial help, and the Egyptian government could pour the money not needed there into infrastructure e.g. in rural communities. These communities, like poor people in Egypt, often feel despised by their more `western´, educated and richer fellow citizens (basically because they are despised) and thus the `purity of faith´ becomes so important to them.

      Just keeping our fingers crossed is not a satisfying strategy. Judicious scholarly and business cooperation might give us a chance, and maybe we can get our various foreign policies etc to consider that (if they aren´t doing it anyway).

      • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

        Sadly, such things are likely to be seen as interference and further anger the populace and push them towards radicalization. In fact, radicalization appears to be the most likely option regardless of what the Western Nations do. If we stand back and do nothing, the better funded and more powerful radical groups take over. If we do anything, the better funded and more powerful Radical point to us as an evil, imperial force trying to control they Egyptian people, who they will say should only be governed by themselves and Allah.

        Pretty much, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. :(

  • Evvy_smith

    I thought it was taught in Islam by the Prophet not to impose religious things on others? To me my god to you yours… It will be a sad day for religion and tourism if they destroy or cover up their historic heritage in any way shape or form and It will be felt in Egypt’s economy the most. To condemn the work of sculptors is taking religious obligations a bit too far, the majority of people displaying the statues in their homes are not Muslim so why make a mountain out of a mole hill?

    • http://heathenfaith.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      It may have been what he taught at first. However, under islamic tradition/law, the newer of mo’s teachings superseded the older. So while the First bit of the Qur’an is quite nice, the more violent and totalitarian verses are all in the latter parts, meaning they override the nice stuff, permanently.

    • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Evvy_smith: “I thought it was taught in Islam by the Prophet not to impose religious things on others? To me my god to you yours.”

      Today’s Arabic vocabulary lesson: Taqiyya:

      The word “al-Taqiyya” literally means: “Concealing or disguising one’s beliefs, convictions, ideas, feelings, opinions, and/or strategies at a time of eminent danger, whether now or later in time, to save oneself from physical and/or mental injury.”

      A one-word translation would be “Dissimulation.”

      …. The true spirit of “al-Taqiyya” is better embodied in the single word “diplomacy” because it encompasses a comprehensive spectrum of behaviors that serve to further the vested interests of all parties involved.

      The above explanation of taqiyya is not from some right-wing website. It is from the Al-Islam.Org website]=

      Here is what Muhammad actually taught: “May God fight the Jews and the Christians! They transformed the tombs of their prophets into mosques. Two religions will not remain in the land of the Arabs. According to Islamic tradition, these were the dying words of Muhammad. See Tolerance and Coercion in Islam: Interfaith Relations in the Muslim Tradition by Yohanan Friedmann, page 90.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=568740386 Scarlett Dee

    The very shrine in Mecca that Muslims revere…The Kaaba..is in fact Pagan in origin…So,will that be ‘covered’ also ?
    Oh the irony….

    • Anonymous

      Since Muhammad had all idols removed from the Kaaba after entering Mecca in 630, the Kaaba contains no representations of the human form, so there will be no need to cover it and, thus, no irony. Sorry.

    • Adon

      Muslims believe that the Kaaba was the House of God built by Abraham himself 2000 A.D. They also believe that pagans came afterwards and “desecrated” the place with their idols until Mohamed came to restore the real old religion (which they consider to be Islam).

      It’s a reversed view of history, the pseudo-history of Islam, but that what they believe, and i’m not talking about the average Khalid on the streets here, this is what’s taught at schools at almost all the Islamic countries.

      • Adon

        i meant 2000 B.C

      • Anonymous

        Of my Muslim friends, most of them adamantly believe that Islam came before all other religions. The ones who do not confide it to me in private, for fear of being shunned or worse. I don’t claim to understand any religion, but the absolute mental disassociation that occurs within Islam in regards to Islam is quite frankly bizarre.

        • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

          “most of them adamantly believe that Islam came before all other religions”

          The same conceit is also found in Christianity. The basic idea is that “primitive monotheism” (Urmonotheism auf Deutsch) was the original religion of humanity, and that this degenerated into superstition and, in particular, polytheism. This theory is argued for in the entry under Monotheism in the Catholic Encyclopedia, published in 1911: link.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            Well, that was an incredibly amusing read.

          • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            The 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia is a gold mine.

          • Anonymous

            Like that? Enjoy the antisemitism in the entry on Torquemada: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14783a.htm

            Those evil Marranos (aka “secret Jews”) trying to take over Spain! We really should not judge the Grand Inquisitor too harshly! Times were tough with such evil Jewish conspiracies in the air.

            It’s like the precursor to Holocaust denial. Indeed, it really is the precursor to the Holocaust. Remember when reading this sort of thing that some present-day Christian apologists/revisionists are trying to blame paganism, in a Germany that was overwhelmingly Christian, split between Protestant in the North and Catholic in the South, for the Holocaust.

            The beauty of the Catholic Encyclopedia is that in it you see Catholicism before it tried to put on the mask of being all humane and ecumenical. It’s honest in a way that today’s Catholicism is not.

          • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Just to pick up a little on the whole anti-semitism thing, since Folcwald so kindly opened that particular Pandora’s box. One of the most striking things about the statistics from the Holocaust is that the vast majority of the victims were from Eastern Europe. Why? Because Western Europe had already mostly taken care of its “Jewish Problem”. The Jews were expelled from Paris in 1182, from all of France in 1254, from England in 1290, from Spain in 1492, from Portugal in 1496, from Sicily in 1497, from Calabria (Italy) in 1554. Martin Luther published his edifying little pamphlet, The Jews And Their Lies in 1543.

            A major result of all these expulsions was that a great many Jews ended up in Poland, which was already home to a large Jewish population. About half of all the Jews killed during the Holocaust were from Poland. So the Nazis were just finishing a job that had been well underway for centuries.

          • Merofled Ing

            We really should not judge the Grand Inquisitor too harshly!

            ARD, German television, March 3, 2005:
            ”Great Inquisitor is a historical correlation, somewhere we are part of continuity. But today we try to do that, which was done according to the methods used then, and those can be partly criticized, out of our awareness of rightfulness/legal awareness. But you do have to say that Inquisition was progress, that people could not be sentenced anymore without Inquisitio, that means, that investigations had to take place.”
            Pope Benedict XVI, speaking about his role of Great Inquisitor when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger.
            http://www.denk-mit.info/kirche/papstratzingernachfolgerderinquisition.html

          • http://egregores.wordpress.com Apuleius Platonicus

            “But you do have to say that Inquisition was progress …”

            Ratzinger spoke the truth. This is why I am an anti-modernist. The myth of progress is an intellectual and spiritual abomination.

  • Anonymous

    2 quotes from some Pre-18th Dynasty funerary texts…nuff said.

    “May you awake in peace! Awake, Ta’it, in peace! Awake, you of Ta’it-
    Town, in peace! Horus’s eye in that place, sees you, in peace!
    Horus’s eye in the
    Red-Crown enclosures, in peace!—
    you whom the made-up women receive, you who adorn the great
    one in the sedan chair.”
      “give them to those
    gods who are wise and experienced, the Imperishable Stars.”
    They are alive in the Scarabs life, enduring in Djedut. Isis and
    Nephthys have made protection for them in Asyut—for their rulership is in
    the people, in their identity of the lords of Asyut;
    for the gods rulership is in them, in
    their identity of the God’s Canal—worship the gods so that you
    don’t become far from them.”


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