Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Returning to the age of the camel | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Egypt has received its latest heavy political blow, against the backdrop of the Cairo Criminal Court’s ruling over what has become known as the Battle of the Camel [referring to the clashes between protestors and pro-Mubarak supporters in February 2011]. The court acquitted all 24 defendants, prompting the Egyptian President to attempt to dismiss the prosecutor general, only to later go back on this decision as it did not fall within his presidential remit. However, the story here is not about objecting to the Battle of the Camel case verdict, nor is it about the controversy surrounding the dismissal of the prosecutor general; the story is much bigger than this.

The story is about those who want to return to the age of the camel, not just to protest against the Battle of the Camel court rulings. The most notable example of this is the recent statement by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide. Al-Qaradawi called for pilgrims in Mecca to pray against what he called the enemies of the Islamic community, and then he called for the retrial of those acquitted in the Battle of the Camel trial. Al-Qaradawi said: “Unfortunately, the prosecutor general and his judges are untrustworthy. Thus President Mursi dismissed [the prosecutor general] and reappointed him as Ambassador to the Vatican. Yet he said ‘you cannot dismiss me’, and this is strange, is he a prophet?”

From here it is clear that we are facing a state of chaos, and a constant desire to destroy the concept of the state, its laws and regulations. We are witnessing “spiritual” authorities attempting to outweigh the state authorities and the law, yet al-Qaradawi is not the Grand Mufti of Egypt, or Saudi Arabia, or Muslims in General! Who is al-Qaradawi to demand that pilgrims pray in accordance with his views, interests and fluctuating policies? Politicizing the pilgrimage is a violation of Saudi law, and ever since the inception of the Saudi state the Hajj has never been allowed to be an arena for political debate. If al-Qaradawi calls upon pilgrims to pray against the enemies of the Islamic community during the Hajj, and some of al-Qaradawi’s so-called enemies are Muslims as well, then those Muslims may think it is also their duty to pray against who they believe to be enemies of the Islamic community, irrespective of al-Qaradawi’s opinions. Is there anything more controversial than this? How can al-Qaradawi say this, and yet sincerely recite the verse: “There is to be no sexual relations and no disobedience and no disputing during Hajj [Surat al-Baqarah, 197]”?

As for al-Qaradawi’s assertion that the Egyptian prosecutor general is not a prophet and therefore should not be isolated [from political repercussions], this is another perplexing story. What is the value of laws, regulations and constitutions then? What is the point of talking about the state of law and institutions if al-Qaradawi wants to marginalize and undermine them with a political stance coated in religious rhetoric? What is the fundamental value of the judiciary if it has to pass judgments in accordance with the wishes of the street? Here we are not talking about laws and courts, but a desire for revenge.

The danger in al-Qaradawi’s statements is that they undermine the state and diminish its prestige. They will only bring us back to the age of the camel, rather than leading a victory for the victims of the Battle of the Camel! The danger of these statements is that they attempt to impose a higher sense of authority upon the Sunnis, by drawing an alternate reality and by exploiting events that affect Arab public opinion and are affected by it. It is therefore very important that we pay attention to this danger.