By Lorenza Formicola
Egypt is trying to eradicate the fruits and roots of Islamic radicalism that has changed the country.
The latest initiative has flooded the newsstands, the online chats and the different online platforms: short videos with which they try to show a less bad side of Islam.
The recent Egyptian history means a change of perspective useful to avoid that young people between 16 and 25 years old, end up being victims of the Islamic ideology and embracing a Kalashnikov. One of the films is a 90-second film in which the prohibition of supporting and protecting extremist groups is made explicit. Another video shows a woman who says “rejoice, celebrate and do not listen to extremists whose ideology is limited to prohibit the good things that God allow us”. The spectrum of the Muslim Brotherhood is difficult to erase. The videos were born precisely because of the need to counteract the religious dictates issued by extremist groups and the jihadist ramifications. But to delete from the news and from the minds of the Egyptians the nightmare of fatāwā legitimized by imams and scholars several times even to justify suicide attacks and the murder of those who refused to marry the rhetoric of the Muslim Brotherhood, will not be so easy.
Press kiosks located in underground stations are a project launched in July 2017, useful for spreading advice and points of view, including preachers, about terrorism and extremism and reporting on religious issues and on the dangers of terrorism and extremism. At the same time, Al-Azhar University, the most important educational center of Sunni Islamic learning, in 2016 founded a national initiative in which they sent religious scholars to coffee shops to talk with young people about morality, religious matters and about the true traditions of the Islamic faith.
However, it must be said that the rays of light begin to glimpse. A first step, for example, is the bill issued a few days ago to eliminate the religious status of national identity documents: an initiative welcomed by activists as a method to fight against discrimination and against the persecution of religious minorities.
The need to design effective methods means to prevent extremist groups from capturing the hearts and minds of young and old people, and counteract the radical visions of Islam will also lead to the production of animated short films in the near future. On the other hand the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood, has also been adapted to the times, using videos, brochures and even theater to serve the cause.
According to Ahmed Karima, preacher and professor of Sharia at Al-Azhar University, the videos will be ineffective because they are not aimed at the right audience. “These videos are only useful as educational material for children in kindergartens. They will never have an impact on young people, who should be guided through seminars, books, television programs, etc.,” he said in an interview. Mohamed Abdel Aaty, dean of the faculty of Islamic studies at Al-Azhar University in the Governorate of Qalubiya, replied: “The instruments do not always have to be sermons or television programs. These are other useful tools that can change people’s opinions on various controversial issues promoted by terrorist groups.”
In any case, initiatives such as these demonstrate the commitment assumed by Egypt in the fight against Islamic terrorism since the expulsion of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government has adopted a dual approach with regard to the religious extremism that includes both military operations and initiatives developed by Egyptian religious institutions, such as Al-Azhar University and Dar al-Ifta, which aim to de-radicalizate the population.
Meanwhile, the ideology present in the Egyptian school books is radical. Every Friday, the children listen to the preaching in the mosque, which is a continuous incitement: “whoever leaves the Muslim religion must be punished with death”; “We should not greet a woman or an infidel.” However, Al Sisi recognized the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, was not afraid to put it out of law and did not prevented the sentence of hundreds of its members to prison.
Today, the West has not yet well understood what kind of relations should have with Egypt but is near those who weave relations with Islamic terrorism.