The word “civil” has lately been the cause of much controversy in Egypt with liberals demanding that it becomes the designation of the post-revolution state and Islamists rejecting what they see as its anti-religious connotations.
For Bassem al-Zarqa, member of the supreme committee of the Salafi al-Nour Party, the word “civil” is used vaguely and will stay unacceptable until clarified.
“Salafis reject the use of the word ‘civil’ in a way that does not clarify what it entails and they are now trying to reach an understanding on its meaning with other political powers in Egypt,” Zarqa told Al Arabiya News Channel Friday.
Zarqa denied that Salafi beliefs are not in line with the foundations of the Egyptian state.
“Salafism means following the teachings of the Prophet and his companions. It is based on those teachings that both religion and state were founded, so we can say that all Egyptians are Salafis.”
He also refuted claims that Salafis have suddenly showed interest in politics after the revolution.
“Salafis have always been involved in politics at the grassroots level at the time of the former regime, but we refused to take part in the election charade.”
For Egyptian writer Hani Nessira, Salafis reject words like “civil” and “democracy” because for them they mean allowing human beings more power than they should have.
“From the Salafi point of view, democracy and civil state mean giving people power over God’s laws and this for them is unacceptable,” he said.
Nessira called upon Salafi parties to come to terms with the idea of a civil state and which is not new to Egypt.
“The creation of a civil state is part of Egypt’s history and it can be traced back to even before the 19th century.”
Coptic analyst and member of the supreme committee of the liberal-oriented the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Emad Gad attributed the Salafis’ rejection of the word “civil” to their stance on the presence of Christians in Egypt.
“Salafis do not recognize the presence of Egyptian Christians and consider a Pakistani Muslim closer to them than an Egyptian Christian. Therefore, they undermine the principle of citizenship,” he said.
Gad pointed out several fatwas issued by Salafi clerics and which label Christians apostates and prohibit dealing with them.
“The Salafi discourse is confused and has very dangerous implications which become clear in their statements about democracy as a form of apostasy.”
Gad called upon Salafis to adopt a more straightforward discourse and clearly state where they stand on vital democratic values like rotation of power, equality, and freedom of speech and faith.
“They also need to state whether they are willing to accept whatever the majority of Egyptian political powers agrees on or not,” he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)