Al-Azhar University has urged Egyptians to ignore calls for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience on 11 February, the first anniversary of Hosni Mubarak’s ousting from power.
A host of political, workers and student groups have called for acts of civil disobedience – including the non-payment of taxes and utility bills – and a general strike, to force the immediate handover of power from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to a civilian administration.
Ismael Shaheen, deputy head of the university, said the calls were against the national interest and unjustifiable.
The Egypt Revolutionaries' Alliance – an umbrella organisation of over 50 political groups, including the country’s six most prominent revolutionary movements – endorsed the campaign.
The alliance has issued a list of seven demands that it hopes to achieve via the campaign: the immediate dismantlement of the interim government, the immediate holding of presidential elections, the formation of a committee to investigate all the massacres that have taken place in recent months, the formation of revolutionary tribunals to try members of the old regime, the dismissal of Egypt’s prosecutor-general and the restructuring of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior. Several groups have also called for the military council, which has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s ouster, to hand over power to a civilian authority.
Senior figures at Al-Azhar have condemned the campaign and urged Egyptians not to respond.
“Who will rule Egypt when the military council leaves?” asked Shaheen. “And can we guarantee that there will be a consensus over a temporary president, as some have suggested? As for speeding up the trials of former regime members, it is well known that you cannot have a fair trial under pressure.”
Shaheen went on to say that any hasty court verdicts would be invalid if they deprived the accused of their legal rights.
Regarding the labour demands issued by some groups, Shaheen said that the government needed a larger budget and more production in order to respond, which it doesn’t have at the present time because Egypt is in the midst of an economic crisis.
He said calls for civil disobedience were “unpatriotic” and stressed that there were other more peaceful ways to protest that did not hinder the interests of the people or halt the wheels of production.
Egypt’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb has also weighed in on the issue, stressing that obstructing the flow of work is banned by the Islamic Sharia and that the Prophet Mohamed advised Muslims to work even on Resurrection Day.
El-Tayeb added that Muslims have three duties on earth: worship God, take responsibility for their families and work to build this world. He then encouraged Egyptians not to halt work even for one hour and to do their duties towards themselves, their family, their nation and God.