Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Forbidden Fun | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Those who fell victim to the bloody Port Said events in Egypt are not to be considered martyrs, because they were killed whilst partaking in a form of “forbidden fun.”

We heard such a decisive opinion from Sheikh Abdul Moneim al-Shahat, a spokesman for the Salafi movement in Egypt, in a video recording broadcasted on the official Salafi television channel and later disseminated widely on internet websites. Of course, what al-Shahat said was not surprising, for this coincided with a verbal attack launched by Egyptian MPs against those youths who died in the football match massacre in Port Said, with certain MPs branding them as “thugs”.

Such opinions prompt us to laugh and cry at a time. But according to those who express these opinions, they are rulings and fatwas that we must abide by. Furthermore, there are now many who adopt this school of thought.

Having conducted a quick study of the most recent fatwas, I came across many: In Yemen, for example, there are Takfiri fatwas labeling some journalists and activists as infidels, whilst in Sudan there are fatwas forbidding female sports, in addition to an endless torrent of edicts forbidding demonstrations and sit-ins.

These rulings are issued by the same people who previously routinely issued fatwas on satellite channels, defying all reason and logic.

As for the scene today, the Arab revolutions have contributed to the overthrow of repressive and corrupt regimes, and facilitated the entry of the Islamists through the large gate [of parliament]. It now seems inevitable that we will have to deal more seriously with what these people [issuing fatwas] are saying. This is especially considering the irrational political and social stances they adopt under the cloak of religion, which provides their fatwas with a halo of sanctity, hence blocking the way for any discussions or objection. Present-day fatwas now have an executive force behind them, a power they never had before.

Fatwas in the pre-revolutionary era were a mere trend or point of view circulated in the media, often the subject of ridicule. As for today, however, fatwas are issued instantaneously, like tweets posted on Twitter, and now they come under the protection of authority. This makes the danger of publicizing them more pressing and influential.

The prison sentence given to the well-known Egyptian actor Adel Emam – under charges of “defamation of religion” – is a similar matter. It is true that sentences were issued in the past to force the writer Nasr Hamed Abu-Zaid to split from his wife, but today the sentences are being issued by the main authority, of which the Islamists make up the main component.

The public and the media now have a new monitoring task, as it is now very likely that the political regime will submit to the increasing torrent of fatwas, considering the fact that the Salafis have arrived in parliament, and in view of the stances being adopted left, right and center. Today, political opinions are becoming mixed with religious ones, and this will further impact upon peoples’ lives and deaths. When a fatwa is issued by a ruling authority, as is the situation today, its negative and destructive impact becomes even greater.

The monitoring task is something that we must all undertake.

This endeavor must be initiated by confronting those who consider football to be “forbidden fun”, and who consider anyone who dies in a football stadium as deserving of this fate.