Posts Tagged ‘morality police’

On "morality police" in Egypt

July 15th, 2012 Comments off

I did not get a chance to blog about the reports of Islamist morality vigilantism said to have caused the death of a young man in Suez a couple of weeks ago, but below are some links on the story. While it’s not clear how widespread the phenomenon is, and there has been some alarmism, I do believe that such events are happening more frequently. I would not look at a conspiracy by the new Islamist president for now, though — this problem has much more to do with the collapse of authority in areas where there the state already has problems to impose itself. No wonder the worst instances of such morality police (but the least reported) is Sinai.

  • No morality police in Egypt: Morsi spokesman – Politics – Egypt – Ahram Online
  • A noisy discourse on sexual harassment : EgyptMonocle
  • Egyptian Youth’s Murder in Suez Puts Islamists on Defensive – Bloomberg
  • Fears of ‘morality vigilantism’ in Suez – YouTube
  • After Suez murder, questions linger over vigilante ‘morality police’ | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian student fatally stabbed by militants – SFGate

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    Links 4-5 January 2012

    January 6th, 2012 Comments off

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    Now That All the Country’s Other Problems are Solved, Iran Cracks Down on water Fights in Parks

    September 7th, 2011 Comments off

    Facebook and Twitter and the Internet have already been identified as evil Western tools in Iran, but now they’ve found a new threat: the SuperSoaker Revolution. After an apparently exuberant if harmless fight in a Tehran Park in July, in which young men (and young women) enjoyed a water fight using water guns, Iran’s authorities, led by the religious police (why do I find that term an oxymoron wherever it is used?), are cracking down. AP here; a piece in The Wall Street Journal here,  and one from the UAE’s The National here.

    Gad: they’re scared of water guns now? Isn’t it better to give the young people an outlet of some kind than to bottle it all up?

    This quote from The National’s account may offer a clue:

    “The people who involve in such actions are either stupid or not respectful of the law,” Mr Radan said. “The police will not allow them to achieve their goals and will confront the main organisers” of such events.

    In late July, several hundred youths took part in a huge water fight using plastic water pistols as well as bottled water at the same venue in heat-weary Tehran, arranging the event on Facebook and through mobile text messages.

    Ten of them were arrested as photos of boys and girls in drenched clothing emerged on social networking websites and eventually made their way into the media, to the anger of conservatives.

    The chief of the country’s morality police, General Ahmad Rouzbahani, warned then that the police would act forcefully against such events happening “in public places, or anywhere throughout the country”.

    Okay. Facebook was involved, so the threat of organized demonstrations — if you can organize a SuperSoaker fight, you can organize a political demonstration — may be part of it.  The reference to “photos of boys and girls in drenched clothing” suggests that someone, perhaps “the chief of the country’s morality police,” got tied in knots by the idea of young women in wet T-shirts, though there is no indication that was the result. And are the women allowed out in just T-shirts, anyway? Was this a wet chador incident? I doubt that, somehow.

    And maybe it’s just the idea that there’s something seditious about young folk having fun.

    When water guns are banned, only  criminals will have water guns.

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    Jeans, Jinn, and Iran’s Morality Police

    June 24th, 2011 Comments off

    I’m paying too little attention to Iran lately and need, sometime soon, to address the growing conflicts between the Supreme Leader and the President. But for right now something a little lighter, which, however, may be a reflex of that struggle: “Jeans ‘are named for jinns and can make you infertile’, Iranians told.”  Now a couple of caveats first: a UAE newspaper like The National has its own agenda on Iran, of course. And it does bother me to see any newspaper in the Arab world, even one in English, use “Jinns” in a headline, since jinn is already a plural. It’s like saying “geeses” or “feets” or something. (The singular, of course, is jinni, as in the “genie” of the Lamp.)

    But on to the story itself. Arguments over dress code, it claims, are part of the Khamene’i/Ahmadinejad power struggle, and Iran has a developing morality police that seem akin to Saudi Arabia’s mutawa‘in, if more selective.

    Two further thoughts on the jeans/jinn question: first, do young men really find infertility (as opposed to impotence of course) a bad thing? Until they’re ready for kids, at least?

    And secondly, please don’t tell them jeans were popularized by Levi Strauss. Imagine what they might do with that.

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    Hamas cracks down on Islamist extremists in Rafah

    August 16th, 2009 Comments off

    At noon prayers yesterday in a mosque in the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, a salafist (Islamist extremist) preacher called Abdul-Latif Musa made a fiery appearance surrounded by heavily armed guards– and the Hamas police in the city cracked down hard on this show of defiance.

    A lengthy gun-battle ensued, in which, according to Ehab Al-Ghussain, the spokesman of the PA interior ministry in the Gaza Strip, Musa, nine of his supporters, six Palestinian police officers, and six civilians were killed.

    Some other reports said two of the dead were young girls– also, that around 120 people were injured in these firefights. Another report said that among those killed in the fighting was Mohammed al-Shamali, the Hamas military chief for southern Gaza,

    Musa was the head of a small faction, called Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of the partisans of God), which was generally affiliated with Al-Qaeda and first surfaced in Gaza in mid-2008. JAA militants were reported as having acted for some months as a tough ‘morality police’ at various places in the Strip, threatening to close internet cafes and other public places and terrorizing Gazans sitting in mixed groups on the beach, etc.

    In June, they launched a fairly large-scale– but unsuccessful–attack against the Israeli crossing point at Nahal Oz. In it they used suicide bombers riding horses and trucks.

    In today’s JAA action, Musa and his armed followers went into the mosque in Rafah and announced the establishment of an “Islamic emirate (princedom)” in Gaza, under his control.

    This open challenge to the authority of the elected Hamas government in the Strip made a Hamas crackdown inevitable. In his announcement Ghussain said that Interior Ministry officials and local preachers and Ulamas had previously “tried to convince the militants to return to the straight way, and to lay down their arms but to no avail.”

    Ghussain also said that Musa “had good relationship and coordination with the PA security forces in Ramallah city [and accused] those forces of attempting to destabilize peace and order in the besieged Strip after they failed to enter the tiny Strip.”

    For their part, the newly elected Central Committee of Fateh blamed Hamas for having allowed all kinds of foreign fighters to enter into the Gaza Strip.

    There has been no suggestion, however, that Musa himself is not Palestinian, and no evidence that any of his followers are (were) non-Palestinian, apart from one of his aides, known as Abu Abdullah al-Suri, said to be a Palestinian from Syria.

    The tensions between on the one hand Hamas and on the other Al-Qaeda and its affiliates go back a long way. Al-Qaeda ideologue Ayman Zawahiri has frequently criticized Hamas for being far too moderate. For their part, Hamas’s leaders have always been at great pains to differentiate themselves from Al-Qaeda.

    Indeed, the content of Hamas’s programs is very different from Qaeda’s. Hamas has numerous very experienced social-service arms that have provided much-needed services to Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere for many years now. It actively supports the inclusion of women in public life (and has four elected women MPs.) Oh yes, it also participates in elections at both the local and national levels, and has expressed a clear desire to be included in the US-led peace diplomacy in the region.

    Also, Hamas has shown its ready and willing on numerous occasions to abide by a ceasefire with Israel, sometimes on a unilateral basis, sometimes on an indirectly negotiated reciprocal basis, and sometimes– as since last January– on the basis of an exchange of un-negotiated ceasefires with Israel.

    The JAA’s demonstrated willingness to break that ceasefire and thus risk bringing the wrath of Israel’s military once again upon all of Gaza must have been a special concern for the Hamas leaders.

    How should westerners think about an organization like Hamas that cracks down, with apparent success and at considerable cost to itself, on an armed salafist organization like the AAJ?

    Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation observed today that, “Anywhere else but in the Israel-Palestine context Hamas would be the US ally getting training, equipment, and covert ops help, and Washington would mount a PR campaign to explain why Hamas is the moderate alternative fighting Al-Qaeda.”

    He pointed, by way of example, to Sec. Clinton’s recent meeting in Nairobi with Somalia’s president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. The US military waged a tough war against the Islamic Courts Union, which Sheik Ahmed heads– until it became clear that the ICU was the only force in Somalia capable of standing up against the extreme-Islamist Al Shabaab movement.

    But Palestine is different. There, the dictates of US politics have determined– until now– that the US government has to continue to quarantine, exclude, and actively oppose Hamas.

    The JAA’s emergence in Gaza over recent months is not really a surprise. Hamas was indeed weakened to a noticeable extent by the assault Israel launched against it– and the whole of gaza– last winter. Israel inflicted some non-trivial damage on the police formations with which Hamas has tried to police its side of the border and of the ceasefire, though now, seven months later, they have had some time to rebuild.

    Many westerners and Israelis have expressed the hope in the past that if only Hamas could be weakened, then the forces of the US-backed Fateh movement would get stronger. That has always been a dubious proposition. The well-informed International Crisis Group has warned for some time (e.g. in this March 2008 report) that if Hamas gets weakened in the Gaza Strip, then the forces that take up the slack are far more likely to be Islamist groups that are far more extreme than Hamas, rather than Fateh.

    That report also noted that after Hamas’s expulsion of Fateh’s armed forces from the Strip the preceding June, Hamas was able to restore public security to those areas of the Strip that, while Fateh was there, were riddled with various forms of crime, inter-clan feuding, and other violence.

    Over the past 4-5 years Hamas has made some significant moves towards a political/diplomatic stance of considerably more flexibility than hitherto. Including, it participated in– and succeeded in– the PA’s parliamentary elections of 2006.

    But over that same period, Hamas’s most significant political base, in Gaza, has been subjected to repeated hardships, attacks, and gross indignities. So from the sociological/psychological viewpoint, too, it is not surprising that some Gazans are tempted to start criticizing the Hamas leaders from the extremist viewpoint.

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