Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Debate about Egypt being an Islamic State

Today at work, a colleague asked if I wanted Egypt to be a secular state, I initially said yes, for the sake of shocking her...for she is a very sheltered, strict Muslim - which I have nothing against.

What I want is a civil state in Egypt, one where your religion is not stated on your national ID, since it's of no use, we need blood types and not religions in case of emergencies.

She said she was too scared Egypt would turn into another Sudan.
I argued that what happened in Sudan, the civil war and the division of Sudan into two states was solely due to Omar El-Bashir, now president of Northern Sudan insisting on Sudan being an Islamic state while in fact there is a huge portion of the population belonging to other religions and cultures, he forced the people to use the Arabic language and he mainly acted like it was an Arab colony on African land.
What happened in Sudan happened because of Sharia law being enforced on people. Limiting their freedom of choice and expression, which in turn lead to exclusion of people who were still essentially Sudanese.

She said Hijab (the veil) should be enforced by law.
I said do you mean that - me being a Muslim- my not being veiled I am less of a Muslim than you are? She said no...so I asked what her point was. She said that Egypt's Muslim conquest, lead by Amr ibn el Ass, transformed Egypt, automatically, into an Islamic state and it remained an Islamic state and that's how things should be. Because if "they" live in my country, they should follow my rules. I simply said, this is not your country, this is the Egyptians' country. We are a multi-cultural country and you should not enforce your culture on other people.
When Amr Ibn el Ass came to Egypt he never forced women to do anything, he never enforced his own culture on the Egyptians who were free to practice their religion and just live their lives normally. They were, however, taxed and now we are all taxed so that is not a point to be made. I told her that had the Islamic conquest happened today, no one would ever dare force me to cover my hair.

She said that "Cabarets" - by which she probably meant night clubs in general and alcohol should be prohibited.
I said then how are you supposed to control consumption and serving of alcohol? Such permits are merely means of regulation, and it is your choice to not go to "such places", however, some people choose to and they have every right to have the choice. And her argument was that my religion doesn't allow it, I told her some people aren't religious and some people's religions and cultures allow for it. I gave the example of the Netherlands and them allowing the consumption of hash and weed to control consumption, and how they are illegally dealt with and smuggled here in Egypt and if you do the same with alcohol you will have an even bigger problem.

She said that Egypt should be an Islamic state.
I said how do you trust someone else to decide for you means of practicing your religion and your just basic habitual things. How do you trust someone to represent such a personal thing as religion and rule you and your country accordingly. I said that under the Ottoman empire which was more or less and Islamic empire, prostitution was licenced and accordingly allowed. (correct me if I am wrong) and that as a Kingdom - starting 1922 - prostitution was still allowed and that was a means of regulation, merely. I asked her to explain how that fits within an Islamic context, and how that just highlights, even more, the need for separation of the state and religion. Mixing them would only mean limiting liberties and freedoms as well as tainting religion.
I said that enforcing a certain ideology would only lead to corruption, frustration and just plain chaos. She decided to use Saudi Arabia as an example and this is when I almost exploded saying that in KSA the veil is part of their culture and they don't do it for religious purposed, and that the whole underground culture can prove that, I said that the mixing of the state and religion has only lead to the jading of Islam to many Saudi Arabians.

And that was basically it. My point is that even for the people who believe that religion should be incorporated withing the state, this has never happened in Islam, and when it did, things went bad (Ask someone who was raised in Saudi and knows more about later caliphs)

A civil state is how things should be, it is how all rights are preserved and all freedoms are practiced. Or so I think.


Gohary said...

i totally agree with everything except one point, i had your same opinion about religion section in the ID but someone told me that its essential for marriage purposes as we do not have civil marriage its all undergone under religious rules so they have to be sure both are from the same religion and for some people their first, middle and family name can work both ways.
Also would like to add a point, during the great depression in the US when alcohol was prohibited (the prohibition era) it never stopped people from consuming it but it created underground bars and organized mobs that smuggled spirits and alcohols. and they say " الممنوع مرغوب " ,whats prohibited is always sought after

{Selma} Crazy Little World Of Mine said...

I am not going to argue with you on this, because I agree with you Sara. Blood types are so much more important...that's all I can say. ;) I think that's all I'm gonna share on here...


Dapoppins said...

Thank You Sara for posting this fantastic debate, and your insights and responses.

Here in the states we honestly have no idea what Egyptians are thinking right now, or even what the debate is, what the real issues are. Freedom, and safety, and justice are all issues we understand, but they have different definitions to different cultures.

I continue to pray for you and your Egypt.

Taylor said...

Sara - you are really so smart. I am taking a Modern Midddle east class, in which we talk about this a little bit too. Egypt, though, always dominates the conversation because it is such a diverse and strategic place. You make some really good points here. You could publish them in a journal article or newspaper!

Anonymous said...

This is the problem with most people, and why we can't live as one. They always want their views enforced on everyone else. I love that you said "me being a Muslim- my not being veiled I am less of a Muslim than you are?"
Anyway, I agree with all that you have said. Freedom needs to be practiced!
All my love.


Shokoofeh said...

My very dear friend who I am so proud of, there is no word to express how much I loved this post and how much I think you're a beautiful person. xo

Anonymous said...

I think Egyptians probably need to try an Islamic system in order to move past it. Copts should probably leave the country.

The Childlike Empress said...

bravo sara!
i'm glad that there are people out in the world who stand up for what they believe like you.

(yes swan lake is 'sold out' but there are still many empty seats from people who dont use their tickets, if you come a little bit before performance you can normally buy some from people trying to sell unwanted ones)

Zephra said...

I came over from dapoppins and am glad I did. Very good post. I am an American married to a Pakistani Muslim. I have to agree with pretty much everything you said.

... Paige said...

Hi here by way of dapoppins. Hang in there and keep standing

Anonymous said...

I hope you are having a beautiful weekend.


Menna Tarek said...

I hate those crap "Egypt is an Islamic State" conversations. Usually the other person is dump enough to not understand simple logic. What puts into their heads that if women cover up and we all don't brush and use Sowak instead, the stockmarket will surely rise, Israel will stop getting our gas for much much less, the elections will not be forged and there will be no illiteracy for sure.
I pray for strength to continue to carry out those conversations.