Saturday, November 19, 2011

Buying The Vote: Islamists Trying To Win The Hearts and Minds Of The Egyptian Voters With Free Meat

Initial parliamentary elections in Egypt commence on November 28th, 2011. There are over 11,000 candidates, but like Tunisia, they are predicting a win by Islamist groups. Both the Salafists (ultra conservative) and the Muslim Brotherhood are taking advantage of the Islamic holiday EID to essentially buy votes. And with over 40 percent of Egyptians living in poverty, that's not a hard sell.

In an apparent bid to win over voters in the working class areas, Islamist contenders have set up kiosks to sell meat at economical prices. Candidates in the southern Egyptian province of Assiut distributed sacrificial meat for free with their photos pasted on the beef bags, according to the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram.

In Beni Sueif, another province in southern Egypt, parliament hopefuls reportedly offered cash gifts to children.

Other contenders, mainly from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, arranged raffle draws in which winners received valuable prizes including sheep.

For 60 years, under Hosni Mubarak's leadership,  the Islamists were banned from politics. They are now out in force trying to win over the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people.  Although still banned from campaigning in 'places of worship', the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists are bucking the law and doing it anyway. Voters are being urged to

"elect candidates who know well God's religion and are careful to implement Sharia."
"The enforcement of God's law is coming," said Sobhi Saleh, an Islamist contender in a sermon in the coastal city of Alexandria. "The Tunisians did this and so can the Egyptians," he added, referring to the big win made by Tunisia's Islamists in the October vote.

The liberals and secularists are not very happy with this turn of events, and fear for the future of Egypt, with very good reason.

"The candidates are obviously exploiting the religious sentiments of the Egyptians to win them over," said Fat'hi Mansour, a professor of political sociology. "They are also illegally using mosques in their campaigns. This is dangerous and should be stopped," he told this newspaper.

According to him, sermons delivered by Islamist contenders or their supporters inside mosques threaten to divide Egypt into religious and non-religious people. "This was clear in the slogans chanted inside mosques against liberals and secularists," said Mansour.

"There is also an apparent manipulation of people's needs in the poor areas in campaigning. Addressing religious feelings instead of promoting religious tolerance poses a threat to Egypt."

There are female candidates, which is a promising sign, until you delve into who some of those candidates are.  Muna Salah, a veiled Salafist,  believes that

....women are deficient in intelligence and religion, and it is not permissible for them to be in authority or to occupy the office of the presidency. She defended her candidacy for the People's Council, saying that acting as a representative in the Council only partial authority and not complete authority [sic], such as the presidency of the republic. She added that she seeks to apply the Islamic shari'a, including cutting off the hands of thieves, preventing the mingling of men and women, and specifying black clothes for women and white clothes for men.

According to Translating Jihad, those sentiments are taken directly from one of the hadiths (Sahi Al-Bukhari).

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." -Sahih Bukhari 1:6:301

With so much ignorance and poverty, the country is ripe for the overtaking by Islamists and their religious agenda.  So much for the Arab Spring and the reach for democracy.

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