Reform by Murder: Extremism Comes to Egypt
By: Mohammad Khawly
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012
Cairo - The murder of Ahmed Hassan Eid at the hands of men with long beards wearing short robes has caused a big stir in Egypt. The street is divided between those who insist that the story is meant to distort the image of the Islamists and those who see it as the beginning of a tide of religious militancy encouraged by an Islamist capturing the presidency.
The story began some time ago and culminated with the murder of the young man in the Suez governorate east of Cairo. It was narrated by his fiance yesterday in front of the public prosecutor.
She was sitting with Ahmed in a garden in the Port Tawfiq area between 7:30pm and 8:30pm. Suddenly, three men with long beards, two of them wearing white robes over short white trousers, appeared on a motorcycle.
“One of them asked me, ‘You girl, why are you sitting in a dark place? Where are you from and what is your name?’” she recalled. They did not notice that Ahmed was sitting next to her.
“‘Wearing makeup! God forbid!’” another man joined in, and “muttered some words in formal Arabic that I could not understand,” she added.
When the men noticed Ahmed’s presence, one of them asked him, “Who is this and what is your relation to her?” Ahmed replied, “What business is it of yours? She is my fiance and maternal cousin.”
They demanded proof and Ahmed showed them his engagement ring. But one of them replied, “Then, she is a stranger to you.”
This made Ahmed angry and he tried to push them away. But one perpetrator took out a stick he was carrying and started beating the young man.
They scuffled. Then another attacker took out a sharp object he had in his pocket and stabbed Ahmed in the stomach. Then they ran away.
This is the eyewitness story of Ahmed’s companion.
As for the perpetrator, he boasted about his crime in an unconfirmed statement issued by something called “The Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” that was shared by several people on social media sites.
The statement, carrying #10, said that “early yesterday evening, while two members of the committee were on a motorcycle patrol in the Port Tawfik sector of Suez city they noticed a young man standing with a young girl at the side of the road near a taxi cab.”
“This made them stop to ask why he would be there at such a late hour with the girl and the type of relationship that binds them.”
“When asked about his formal relationship, he pointed to a silver engagement ring on his hand [sic.], which is irrelevant and does not mean anything.”
“This prompted the members of the committee to enact the rite of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice on the young man, who was with a woman who is a stranger to him, without contract, at a late hour at night,” continued the statement.
It confessed that one of the committee members took out “a light bamboo stick to beat the young man gently, without hurting him. Then, he chided him and advised him not to commit acts that contradict God’s law and go against His orders.”
The statement said that the victim “was enraged and raised his voice, shoving a member of the committee to the ground and attempting to attack him. The second committee member took out an electric rod to try to block the young man and stop him from continuing his aggression.”
“But the young man continued to revolt and expressed the filthiest types of insults against the committee members. He mocked their Islamic garb and short robes.”
“One of the committee members was forced to take out a knife he was carrying for self defense and stabbed him softly in the leg, without intending to hurt him,” the statement went on.
Finally, it promised to “initiate an internal investigation with the committee member who caused the young man’s death. Even though we know he did not mean it at all.” It also pledged to “search its members meticulously before the start of their campaigns [patrols], to ensure that they do not carry any weapons.”
Security forces are currently carrying out investigations to find the source of the statement.
Although the victim’s body was buried the day before yesterday, his story remains alive. His father will not accept condolences until the perpetrators are caught and brought to trial.
The Islamist group al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya in Suez issued a statement insisting that they have no connection with the men who stabbed Ahmed, saying he was killed in “a fight that did not concern them.”
The statement maintained that accusations of its involvement in the crime are “pure and deliberate fabrications, without any evidence. It is a chapter in the campaign of distortions against the Islamic current, through channels known to be close to the former regime.”
The mufti of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya, Sheikh Abdul Akhar Hammad, rejected accusations that Salafis were behind the murder.
“There is no real entity with the name of the Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Stories about the committee indicate that it was created by people who do not understand Islam and who abuse the rite of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice,” he said.
He claimed that the group aims to “scare and terrorize Egyptians with Islam under the pretext of prevention of vice.”
President of al-Gamaa al-Islamiyya’s Building and Development Party Safwat Abdul Ghani, maintained that the discussion about the emergence of the committee in Egypt is a controversy fabricated by the media.
The accusations against the Islamists were dismissed not only by the Islamic parties but even by their opponents.
Novelist Alaa al-Aswany said that people claiming to be in the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are “paid to terrorize citizens, and they are against president Mursi.”
“Behind them are whole networks connected with the Mubarak regime who are attempting to get rid of the new president after he promised to put the corrupt on trial and clean up state institutions,” he explained.
This opinion was shared by activist Nawara Negm who beliefs that these groups are connected to security agencies.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.