well, i guess i’m an extremist…

…although I prefer the descriptor FUNdamentalist.

Egypt’s new religious fervour breeds ghetto mentality

Banker Hussein Khalil says organising something as simple as an evening out with friends has turned into a headache.

“These days in Egypt, either you go out with people who are very strict and agree not to go anywhere that serves alcohol, or you go out with others who just want to get drunk,” said the 27-year-old.

“Moderates are unable to enjoy their lives… We’re under pressure to join one of the two extremes.”

Egypt’s legal system is based on Islamic sharia law yet the country has a large Christian minority and the state has sought since independence to cement national identity by promoting an ideal of citizenship that transcends religious affiliation.

Religious observance was seen widely as a matter of personal conscience until the 1980s, when growing numbers of Egyptians started working in Saudi Arabia and began promoting the strict Islamic ways back home.

When thanked, most Egyptians used to say: “You are welcome”. This has been replaced by the more pious phrase: “May God reward you with goodness”.

Some women have stopped shaking men’s hands, saying it is forbidden. Many Muslim scholars say greetings are set by society, not by Islam.


I think it’s time for me to dig out some of the books from my college courses.  You can never get the full story in an article, but I think this one ignores a lot of the historical reasoning for the shift towards stricter religious observance.   It’s popular to blame everything on the Saudis/Wahabbis (which I’ve been known to do on occasion), but there are a lot more factors here – the fact that decades of different political and economic strategies have failed to provide any great improvement in the lives of Egyptians, and the decline and deliberate undermining of traditional sources of religious knowledge from Egypt (ie al Azhar) by the government are 2 huge reasons Egyptians have looked elsewhere for their religious influences.


And, off topic, what does it say about me that this is what popped into my head when I read the title?


4 thoughts on “well, i guess i’m an extremist…

  1. I honestly don’t see what’s “extremist” about avoiding alcohol, saying “Jazakallah khair”, etc., unless the people that are doing it are haram police and smugly criticize anyone who doesn’t act the same way they do. I guess that makes me an extremist too. :P

    • I’ll have to ask AbuS about the haram police thing, although his only experience with Egypt in the last 5 years was a 2 week trip home this last March.

      I think perhaps people see this as extremist because of the laxity of Egyptian “islam” in the last decades. But, if we were to compare it to the islam of a century ago, it wouldn’t seem extreme at all. All speculation on my part of course – I’ll have to ask my resident Egypt scholar :)

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