Egypt Sufis plan mass rally to counter Salafist and Wahhabi muscle flexing

Ahram Online, Sunday 7 Aug 2011

Traditionally apolitical, Egypt's Sufis decide to join liberals in a mass rally under the banner 'For the Love of Egypt' in response to the encroachment of Salafists and other Wahhabi-oriented Islamists on Egypt's political arena

3 million people attend El-badawi Sufi moulid in Tanta city, Egypt

Sheikh Mofamed Abdel Khaleq El-Shabrawi, the leader of the Shabrawia Order, one of the largest Sufi spiritual orders in Egypt, said that Sufis are planning a massive rally on Friday 12 August in Cairo to call for national unity and a civil state.

Salafists have been tugging the rope towards a theocratic government, whereas most political forces are tugging towards a 'civil state', which accepts the status quo with regards to the recognition of Islam in the Constitution and would replace the de facto military rule with a civilian one.

Sufi and various pro-democracy political forces have been discussing ways to respond to this rising tide of conservative Salafist forces.

Sufi leaders, who tend to favour religious tolerance and generally abstain from politics, were alarmed after hundreds of thousands of Islamists organised mass protests around the country on 29 July to call for the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt.

In Egypt, at least six million people - or one in every three young men - belong to one or another of the more than 40 Sufi orders.

Millions of followers of Sufi orders, both men and women, attend more than 40 massive moulids (festivals that honour specific spiritual iconic figures of different orders) throughout the country.

Many Islamist and Salafist political forces have attacked several Sufi mausoleums in the aftermath of the 25 January Revolution, and charge that Sufi rites and practices, especially gender-mixing, are un-Islamic.

Sheikh El-Shabrawi said that Sufis will focus their Friday rally on advocating for national unity, and, therefore, they have decided to call the event: For the Love of Egypt.

El-Shabrawi added that Sufis might opt not to hold their rally in the central Tahrir Square in order not inconvenience the public during the holy month of Ramadan.

Sufi leaders and other forces had planned to stage a huge indoor rally next Friday’s action at the Nasr City conference hall in north eastern Cairo, but that plan has since morphed into a Ramadan Ifitar (breaking of the fast meal) in Tahrir Square.

The iconic square has been locked off to gatherings and people by the army and security forces since they violently cleared the sit-in there last Monday.

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