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Egypt’s Moral Police

The world watched as the Arab Spring unfolded online. Many of us had hoped that the revolution would bring progress and much-needed economic stability. It was widely considered a success when former President Mubarak stepped down from power. It took a mere two weeks to topple the regime. Those two violent weeks left at least 846 dead and more than 6,000 injured but it filled the nation with hope. After the chaos settled, President Morsi came to power. There were mixed feeling during his June inauguration but it seemed that the future could only be brighter.

It has been almost two and a half years since the Egyptian Revolution and hope is fading. Morsi, the former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, seems to be intent on dragging the country backward. Rumors are swirling about the violence brought by an omnipresent moral police force. While Morsi has publicly condemned the vigilantes who are attempting to enforce Sharia law, they continue to patrol neighborhoods.

The idea of having a group monitoring the behavior of the public is nothing new. Saudi Arabia has a Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice as well. The one major difference between the Saudi Arabian group and the Egyptian group is that the Saudis are controlled and monitored by the state. Many Egyptian leaders have come forward insisting that any policing group must be state-run. If state monitoring of the police force would actual improve anything is questionable.

The Saudi Arabian police are responsible for enforcing the strictest codes of Sharia law. Any native Saudi who doesn’t obey the laws is harshly reprimanded. These laws pertain to public as well as private life. Some laws are obvious- Saudis are forbidden from drinking alcohol and women must cover their hair in public. Others have left even the locals baffled. Earlier this year, the Saudi moral police abruptly closed down a dinosaur display for children in a local mall. The display had been traveling the Gulf states for decades until one day the police stormed a mall in the middle of the day, leaving families angry and confused.

The Egyptian moral police have also taken it upon themselves to instruct businesses on how to comply with moral code. Local barbers have reported receiving strict instruction not to shave men’s beards and clothing shops have been lectured on what exactly constitutes appropriate clothing.

The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice isn’t concerned with their rejection from Al-Azhar, the head of the Sunni Muslims. According to them, the majority of Egyptians welcome their services. They claim that they received approval by proxy when the Salafist Al-Nour Party won the election.

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Like every country, Egypt has their extremists and the now-infamous preacher Hisham el-Ashry clearly fits the bill. He recently created a wave of controversy when he appeared on a major television station saying,

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