Egypt tourism officials fear rise of morality police

Bassem Abo Alabass, Wednesday 28 Dec 2011

Tourism advocates lodge formal complaint against previously-unheard-of 'Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice'

A guard (R) sits inside Fiela Temple in Aswan (Photo: Reuters)

The head of Egypt’s Tourism Supporters Coalition, Ehab Mousa, filed a report to the General Attorney against online statements by an anonymous group calling themselves the “Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice.”

In its first statement on Sunday, the committee, similar to one in Saudi Arabia, announced its intention to preserve the morals of Egyptians in accordance with sharia (Islamic jurisprudence).

“Tour operators have had several reservations cancelled over the last days due to this chaotic statement,” Mousa told Ahram Online.

Mousa added that such online statements do damage not only to Egypt’s economy, but its national security as well. He felt that an official should be required to keep a close watch on social networks and other online sites.

On Monday, the Salafist Nour Party’s official Facebook page denied any relation to an anonymous new group launched on Facebook, the “Committee for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice in Egypt.” The party's denial followed controversy among social media users after the anonymous Salafist group used the party logo in their first Facebook statement on Sunday, despite insisting they are independent.

“Despite El-Nour’s denial, we want the Islamists, whether Salafists or Muslim Brotherhood members, to clearly announce that there are no religious restrictions on Egypt’s tourism,” Mousa said. “It is not Iran or Saudi here.”

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, formerly called the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Elimination of Sin, is a Saudi Arabian government bureaucracy employing
"religious police" or mutaween to enforce sharia within that Islamic nation.

The number of tourists that visited Egypt during the third quarter of 2011 dropped 24 per cent below the same period in 2010 to reach 2.8 million tourists, according to the latest data from Egypt's official statistics body.  Tourism revenues have shrunk by 26 per cent to reach $2.7 billion in the three-month period from July to September, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.

Elhamy Zayat, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Tourism, confirmed that Christmas season hotel bookings declined by an average of 60 per cent, reaching 15 per cent in Cairo and ranging between 40 and 50 per cent in Red sea resorts due to the current political unrest in Egypt.

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