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Egypt Islamists offer sin-free tourism

2011-12-12 22:33

Cairo - Islamists are dominating Egypt's elections and some of them have a new message for tourists: welcome, but no booze, bikinis or mixed bathing at beaches, please.

That vision of turning Egypt into a sin-free vacation spot could spell doom for a key pillar of the economy that has already been badly battered by this year's political unrest.

"Tourists don't need to drink alcohol when they come to Egypt; they have plenty at home," a veiled Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Azza al-Jarf, told a cheering crowd of supporters on Sunday across the street from the Pyramids.

"They came to see the ancient civilization, not to drink alcohol," she said, her voice booming through a set of loudspeakers at a campaign event dubbed "Let's encourage tourism."

The crowd chanted, "Tourism will be at its best under Freedom and Justice," the Brotherhood's party and the most influential political group to emerge from the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

Since their success in the first round of parliamentary elections on November 28-29, the Brotherhood and the even more fundamentalist party of Salafi Muslims called Al-Nour have been under pressure from media and the public to define their stance on a wide range of issues, especially those related to Islamic law, personal freedoms, the rights of women and minorities, the flagging economy and tourism.

The Salafis of Al-Nour are up front about seeking to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood says publicly that it does not seek to force its views about an appropriate Islamic lifestyle on Egyptians.

Economy worse

Critics say remarks by members of both parties meant to reassure the nation that they don't seek to damage tourism are having the opposite effect.

Egypt's year of political upheaval has hit the economy hard and shaken investor confidence. On Sunday, the new interim prime minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, broke into tears in front of journalists as he spoke about the state of the economy, saying it was "worse than anyone imagines".

Turning around the decline in tourism is key to breathing life back into the economy. But tourism presents something of an ideological conundrum for the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nour.

The two parties came in first and second, respectively, in first-round results in the voting, which is staggered and continues through January. Together, they've won an overwhelming majority of votes.

The Salafis, who follow the Wahhabi school of thought that predominates in Saudi Arabia, are clear in their opposition to alcohol and skimpy beachwear.

And they're still wavering on the issues of unmarried couples sharing hotel rooms and the display of ancient Egyptian statues like fertility gods that they believe clash with conservative Islamic sensibilities.

At a Salafi rally in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria recently, party loyalists covered up mermaid statues on a public fountain with cloth.

The Muslim Brotherhood, a more pragmatic political force, has sent mixed messages, reflecting perhaps the influence of some who would be more inclined to leave tourism alone for the sake of the economy.

Brotherhood and Al-Nour party leaders toured ancient monuments over the past couple of days in an attempt to show they're supporting tourism, releasing pictures of themselves smiling and shaking hands with visitors.

Halal tourism

One Al-Nour party spokesperson in the ancient city of Aswan told a gathering: "We are not going to close temples, we are not going to order the tourists to cover up or put restrictions on their freedoms."

Brotherhood leader Saad el-Katatni is also now espousing a hands-off approach. "Tourism is not all about what to eat, drink or wear. ... We have nothing to do with beaches," he told the semi-official Al-Ahram daily.

But in August, he told tourism officials that "Egypt is a pious country and the beach tourism and bikini should not be in public beaches."

Also, clerics like Yasser Bourhami, influential among hard-line Salafis, are presenting ideas for restrictions on tourism. Bourhami calls it "halal tourism," using the term for food that is ritually fit under Islamic law.

"A five-star hotel with no alcohol, a beach for women — sisters — separated from men in a bay where the two sides can enjoy a vacation for a week without sins," he said in an interview with private television network Dream TV. "The tourist doesn't have to swim with a bikini and harm our youth."

A leading member of Al-Nour, Tarek Shalaan, stumbled through a recent TV interview when asked about his views on the display of nude pharaonic statues like those depicting fertility gods.

"The antiquities that we have will be put under a different light to focus on historical events," he said, without explaining further.

He also failed to explain whether hotel reception clerks will have to start demanding marriage certificates from couples checking in together.

No nudity

"Honestly, I don't know the Shari'ah position, so I don't want to give an answer," he said.

During Sunday's campaign event for the Muslim Brotherhood, candidate al-Jarf said the new approach doesn't have to spell the end of tourism.

"Foreigners respect traditions, they didn't come here for nudity," she told a crowd in a middle class district of Giza steps away from the Pyramids where many residents work in tourism.

Another candidate at the event, Ahmed el-Khouli, promised they would draw millions more tourists and criticised members of rival, secular parties who he said "promote nudity and prostitution in Egypt" for the sake of attracting tourist dollars.

Tourism accounts for roughly 10% of Egypt's gross domestic product, employs an estimated 3 million of Egypt's 85 million people, and is one of the top three mainstays of the economy, along with Suez Canal fees and remittances.

Huge swaths of the country, like the Red Sea shores with their stunning coral reefs and Nile Valley cities like Luxor with their ancient temples and tombs, are solely dependent on tourism.

This year, tourist arrivals fell more than 35% in the second quarter, according to government figures.

Feeling of guilt

Still, residents of Luxor and Red Sea province voted in large numbers for the Islamists, which opponents said was a result of the parties feeding a "feeling of guilt" over things like serving alcohol.

Some Salafis acknowledge their approach could mean losses for the industry but propose ways to compensate, like promoting medical tourism or religious and educational tourism.

Their talk prompted an outcry from hundreds of tour guides and the minister of tourism, who recently held a demonstration at the steps of the Great Pyramid. They asserted that each speech by the Islamists translated into reservation cancellations.

The minister, Moneir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, said the impact of religious edicts, or fatwas, on tourism is as bad as the impact from Egypt's security troubles.

"The tourism industry is facing a double challenge: security... and the fatwas," Abdel-Nour said on Monday, according to Egypt's state-run news agency.

"No one will be able to destroy or threaten this industry," he added.

Comments
  • The-Azanian - 2011-12-12 22:55

    ive always wantd to see the pyramids of giza...the statement by ths woman combind with my islamophobia have just shut that door.

      Ryan Holland - 2011-12-13 00:43

      They are holding the pyramids for ransom. Nobody goes there for the split bathing areas and zero percent beers.

      eric.vanvuuren - 2011-12-13 11:57

      @Henno - It’s normally the "militaristic freaks" Running things in Islamic countries. The fact that they are now putting limits on cultures in Egypt different from theirs, there will be conflict following this move. Like the Catholics and the Jews, these guys want too convert or kill all other cultures. When they finally die, one day, I think these people will have a rude awakening. They have been responsible for the destruction of so much. In an age where we should be looking to the stars we have this insane concept called ‘religion’, to stop all forms of progress. Religion should be kept away from leadership for freedom and progress too reigns. The children of the Nile are going to suffer by their own stupidity.

  • Shaun - 2011-12-12 23:26

    Why does everyone want to control what other people do? I can't imagine waking up tomorrow and the first thing i think about is what someone else must and mustn't do. Someone needs to teach the Muslims a little Buddhism, now there's something to live by. Not once do they say you must do this or that, they simply suggest a purer way of living as an individual amongst other individuals. FREEDOM FOR ALL!!

      Jaba - 2011-12-13 06:24

      The problem is not religion – the problem is when religion refuses to neither compromise nor welcome other beliefs or ideas. We have seen nothing yet… my prayers go out to the Coptic Christians who account for 10% of Egypt’s population! Apartheid is back in Africa – this time in Egypt :(

      Yaseen - 2011-12-13 06:52

      Oh Shaun, yeah rite. Whn Italy , Belguim and France banned the Hijaab it was thier rite to, n same for Egypt to ban nudity

      Delusion - 2011-12-13 07:36

      Yasseen, banning the hajeeb has to do with challenging the belief that a female human being is a lust evoking v@gina on legs, which must be covered up because men are weak and sex is (mostly) a disgusting sinful practice. This is coming from your role model for mankind who married a 6_yr old Aisha and started to have sex with her at the age of 9 - when he was in his 50s. ... Trying to free mankind of hypocrats religiots should be encouraged

      Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-13 10:20

      Religion is good in that it gives humans values to live by, problem is more often than not religions are hijacked by crazies with specific agendas, they're just used as tools to promote these agendas. Hence me, I'm not religious, I don't trusy any of them. Who's to say which one is right anyway, all threaten horrible things if you don't "believe". Believe in good, the best religion for mankind.

  • Michael - 2011-12-12 23:43

    That's cool, let us all watch first hand as their economy crumbles beneath their caveman feet. And then they will blame the previous govt.

  • TamaraSays - 2011-12-13 00:35

    Oh bump. Wait till they come back to earth. When the money stops flowing, they'll probably wonder why too. Idjits.

  • Nicole Mattar - 2011-12-13 03:17

    Hypocrites - will they take the rampant child prostitution off the table too?

  • Juan - 2011-12-13 05:50

    These Islamic lunatics can kiss their economy good bye. Tourism was the only cash cow they had, no it's gone. Idiots

      Garth - 2011-12-13 06:16

      That is not entirely true. If you read the article tourism generates approx. 10% of their gdp. And it, tourism, will not disappear entirely - there are millions of muslims who will now visit another conquered land. But, can any sane person out there, imagine how small one's brain needs to be, for one to believe in the wholesale suppression of the fairer sex? It is so totally against nature that it could only stem from the perverted brain of some desert hermit with an over active imagination and a fetish for little boys and girls. Immorality began on this world with the invention of religion.

  • Jaba - 2011-12-13 06:17

    Arab spring? ye whatever! This was an Arab winter - and under Mubarak Egyptians were as free as they would ever be – they were free to travel, work, drink advertise, listen to music etc…. Seems to me in 10 years Egypt would be as loved as Iran is today. There will be the same “Democracy” in Egypt as in the rest of the Arab world - ie ONE ELECTION is more than enough in a lifetime.

      Yaseen - 2011-12-13 06:54

      JabaJaba u talkin a load of bull. The party that just won the elections was banned, thats are simple eg. of the freedom u talking about,,,,not

      Garth - 2011-12-13 07:56

      Yes Yaseen, they were banned and for some very simple reasons: not only for fomenting the violence that brought about the latest change and unrest, but also for advocating the imposition of that unholy crime against freedom, Sharia Law. So they brought down Mubarak's regime only to replace it with an even more suppressionist regime, but this time voted in by the ignorant followers of an amoral religion. Amazing how well those 2 words complement one another: religion and ignorance. `They go together like peas and carrots', or like the 2 brain cells in an anc supporter's otherwise vacuous head.

  • arielyshein - 2011-12-13 07:01

    Part1 Spring of spiders? Spring: The fields are covered by thousands blooming flowers. Life is celebrating everywhere. !!! However- if the fields are covered by thorns, flowers are not blooming and the spiders are flourishing. !!!! The Arabs unrest results in Islamist parties taking power. Islamists parties agenda doesn't stand against the Islamist ideology pillars of: ***1-one religion ISLAM***2-one government KALIFAT***3-one law-SHARIA***4:imposed worldwide by an endless WAR. The western politicians' and media prisoners in their definition of revolution and democracy refuse to listen what is being said in Arabic and not English. -- Is the free world the spider (Islamists) PRAY? Will the free world turn to be the spider (Islamist) PREY? Time will tell. -- Remember: The Nazi get power by democratic elections. Lesson: Understand a ideology before supporting their power takeover. The price played later opposing the implementation of such ideologies is beyond imagination.

  • arielyshein - 2011-12-13 07:01

    Part1 Spring of spiders? Spring: The fields are covered by thousands blooming flowers. Life is celebrating everywhere. !!! However- if the fields are covered by thorns, flowers are not blooming and the spiders are flourishing. !!!! The Arabs unrest results in Islamist parties taking power. Islamists parties agenda doesn't stand against the Islamist ideology pillars of: ***1-one religion ISLAM***2-one government KALIFAT***3-one law-SHARIA***4:imposed worldwide by an endless WAR. The western politicians' and media prisoners in their definition of revolution and democracy refuse to listen what is being said in Arabic and not English. -- Is the free world the spider (Islamists) PRAY? Will the free world turn to be the spider (Islamist) PREY? Time will tell. -- Remember: The Nazi get power by democratic elections. Lesson: Understand a ideology before supporting their power takeover. The price played later opposing the implementation of such ideologies is beyond imagination.

  • arielyshein - 2011-12-13 07:02

    Part2 Spring of spiders? USA helped Taliban to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan without taking seriously their Islamic Jihad ideology. The world harvests the terror seeds on daily basis. Pls remember to enquire Islamist stand for the followings published and said often in Arabic however rarely in English. "1:""**** JIHAD AGAINST NON-MUSLIMS IS OBLIGATORY*** Muslim can come closer to Allah by waging jihad against all non-Muslims,Christians,Jews, atheists,or polytheists in every possible manner. Total rejection of non-Muslims and of the Muslims who have strayed from the path of Islam"" Muslim brotherhood ideology pillar: By Dr Ahmad ‘Abd Al-Khaleq in about Al-Walaa Wa'l-Bara. Refer to Muslim Brotherhood Website- Oct 17 2008 2:Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo's most prominent mosque 2011 Nov 25 attendants vowing time and again, a Koran quote vowing that ***** " ONE DAY WE SAELL KILL ALL THE JEWSs"***** Ref:http://www.ynetnews.com/ articles/0,7340, L-4153207,00.html 3:Muslim brotherhood leader speech in Cairo before 1 million people ****" HITLER DIDN'T FINISHED THE JOB- THE MUSLIMS WILL FINISH THE JOB ""**** ( Refer to BBS program "Third eye Egypt")

  • Cuba - 2011-12-13 07:10

    Actually, seeing that the ancient Egyptians created the golden nectar that is beer, it makes perfect sense to visit the country for the dual benefit of seeing their ancient civilisation as well as their breweries... of course, what would be the best is to give the tourists the choice, i.e. if I want to visit a pub, then I visit a pub, if I want to instead go to a coffee bar, then I can make the choice, it's this freedom of choice that helps to boost tourism and aids to drive your economy .

  • The-Azanian - 2011-12-13 07:34

    i cn smell an economy in free-fall just lyk zim after the implementation of shariah-ike laws.

      jowza1 - 2011-12-13 16:55

      You forgot south africa after the azanians and ancyl have their say

  • Boaz - 2011-12-13 07:41

    What I will miss most about Egypt. 1) The scuba diving in Sinai 2) The smile of the locals faces (those locals involved in the tourist industry) If you want to screw up a cool place bring religion in - goodbye Egypt - I feel sorry for anyone that didn’t go there the last 50 years - you missed out BIG time - the Egyptians come out the biggest losers though - they have gained their democratic right to vote - and with that lost (will lose) all their rights in the future.

  • thabo.tebele - 2011-12-13 07:57

    As a geologist I wanted to visit Egypt soon after I had to cancel my last trip but after reading this I'm very dissapointed that I will not consider going there.This is just stupid.

  • Dean Hart - 2011-12-13 09:32

    What a joke, what these new leaders don't realize is that Egypt's tourism is mainly made up of westerners.

  • Chum Scrubber - 2011-12-13 10:16

    Ah well, I guess I can see the Pyramids on discovery channel. I don't mind not having alcohol, would be good for me actually - but damned if I'm gonna have my wife abused by these radical crazies who deny being human. How does humankind procreate if men are not meant to be attracted to women and visa versa. Keep crazy ideologies away from me please.

  • Werner - 2011-12-13 13:35

    Muslims then dont need mosques in secular countries, they have enough in Islam countries

  • Darryl - 2011-12-13 15:51

    Sorry Urshy - I don't think we will be bothering to visit Egypt anymore - I think Europe is better.

      jowza1 - 2011-12-13 16:57

      better go to europe quickly before they go bankrupt

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