What Makes a Muslim a Salafist? Calling for Prayer in Parliament

Article Summary
Provoked by the interruption of a parliamentary session for a call to prayer, Habib Fayad here presents his objections to Egypt’s new Salafist MPs. He provides a point by point critique of the Salafist interpretation of Islam, which he call rigid, dogmatic and ill-suited for participation in a modern and democratic society.

An [Egyptian] Salafist MP recently disrupted a parliamentary session during prayer time. The [Salafists] see the call to prayer [not just as] a formality, but also as an absolute requirement. One might say that religion puts emphasis on these types of "formalities," as they are seen as the path to more "substantive" [matters]. The Salafists tend to interpret [religious] dogma, and in so doing they marginalize the essence of religion.

As the Arab Spring progressed, the Salafist movement began taking on the form of an international organization and gaining wider support. Today [in Egypt], the Salafist movement forms part of the government, after having been disbanded [during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak]. [Having emerged from the shadows], the movement expanded its influence and has been able to reach out to a greater segment of society. Now that they have taken hold of the reins of power, the Salafists are seeking to reinvent themselves at the political level. However, their political platform remains limited to calls for atonement, rejection [of religious and political difference] and purging [Egyptian politics and society of elements they deem contrary to Islam].

As a puritanical strain of Islam, Salafism not only rejects different doctrines, but goes so far as to impose its own dogma and interpretations on others. The Salafists will use democracy as a tool for exclusionary policies in the name of religion. Under the rule of Salafists, there is no opposition - even if the ruler is unjust. The pertinent question is: How will they address their opponents in the [Egyptian] parliament?

Furthermore, Salafist ideology does not take factors of time and place into account when interpreting religious texts. Salafists reject all attempts to dilute "God-given" laws and instead apply them "mechanically." And yet the repercussions of Salafist practices are not limited to the movement’s adherents; rather, they backfire on Islam and all Islamists. Ironically, however, Salafists tend to [attempt to] justify their own [hypocritical] behaviors - as was the case with some of their members who opened up to Israel and expressed their commitment to the Camp David Accords - on the basis that Muslims must abide by covenants and charters!

Salafism is based on a piecemeal approach to religious understanding and on the application of a rigid set of practices which include:

- An adherence to religious beliefs without truly [demonstrating] faith. Belief is a concept closely related to the mind, and is likely to produce [ideological] ossification, unless it involves feelings. Faith, on the other hand, stems from the heart, and is common among all believers. Advocates of belief uphold their dogmas, while true believers uphold their love to God, and see in it the manifestation of the truth.

- Salafists consider mundane acts carried out by the Prophet in the Seerah [the biography of Prophet Muhammad] as part of the Shari'a, which must be applied regardless of the time and place. (For instance, Salafists consider that the dress of the Prophet is a manner of conduct which must be followed).

- Salafists believe that it is mandatory to generalize from certain religious teachings [intended to apply] to specific historical circumstances, and apply them at all times.

- Salafists give priority to jurisprudential provisions over religious moral values. For instance, those who fail to grow beards are shunned by the community of believers. Yet they do not see that greed, negativity and fraud [also] detract from religion!

Although democracy is in direct contradiction to their dogmatic principles, Salafists have assumed power through the ballot box.

During the elections, when Salafists included women on their electoral lists, they replaced the photos of female candidates with that of their husbands. Are we on the brink of establishing an "emirate" instead of a Republic, and will the elections be replaced with "[oaths of] allegiance?"

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