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Unofficial 'morality police' launches in Egypt

Self-proclaimed Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice launches in Cairo, vows to use non-violent methods to promote 'Islamic morality'

Ahram Online, Friday 1 Mar 2013
Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice
A Snapshot of An unofficial Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice announced its existence at a press conference in Cairo on Thursday
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An unofficial Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice announced its existence at a press conference in Cairo on Thursday.

Founder Hisham El-Ashri said the committee would seek to implement Islamic Sharia law without resorting to violence.

The committee has no intention of copying the aggressive approaches of such committees in other countries, El-Ashri said.

"We have absolutely no relationship with the 'morality' committees in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia or Nigeria," he claimed. "We will only offer advice to those who want to listen.

"We shall have no business with people who refuse to listen to us," El-Ashri added.

Many violent incidents in Egypt have been attributed to self-proclaimed Islamic morality committees since Egypt's revolution in 2011.

In March 2011, a group of alleged Salafists in Qena, Upper Egypt severed the ear of a Coptic Christian man and set his car ablaze for allegedly renting an apartment to two Muslim women, who they claimed were prostitutes.

In July 2012, 20-year-old engineering student Ahmed Said was stabbed to death by bearded men in the Suez Canal city of Suez while walking with his fiancée.

Such crimes, El-Ashri said, have nothing to do with his committee.

El-Ashri said the committee would not target nightclubs because "only the state is responsible for them."

He added, however, that "if a drunken customer comes out of a nightclub, we would prevent him from driving until the police arrive, so he won't hurt himself or others."

"We would not use violence [to achieve our goals] unless there was an assault from the other side that causes bloodshed. But small acts of violence towards us would be overlooked," he said.

El-Ashri said there would be no unofficial marriages, adultery or sexual harassment in Egypt if the committee had existed in the past.

The press conference took place at El-Takwa Mosque in Cairo's working class Abdeen district.

 

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