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22 June 2011

Bikinis, beards battle it out in Egypt

Cairo: As Egypt is gearing up for its first elections since former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted last February, the nation's Islamists and secularists are engaged in a high-profile sparring. Their latest battlefield is the social networking website Facebook.

The Islamists, whose power has been rising since Mubarak's toppling, fired the first salvo in the Facebook battle this month when they launched the "one-million-beard" campaign inspired by a series of one million-strong protests staged in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square over recent weeks to prod Egypt's military rulers to expedite the pace of reforms and the purge of Mubarak's loyalists.

"We encourage Egypt's 80 million people to sport their beards," Mohammad Hassan, a famous fundamentalist Muslim cleric, was quoted as saying in promoting the campaign. "No one should stand in the way of (religious) commitment," he added.

A few days later, the secularists picked up the gauntlet, unveiling the "one-million-bikini" campaign.

"The Salafists act as though they were living alone in this country," said Hassan Rashad, a commerce student, who is on the side of the pro-bikini campaign. "They forget that Egypt is for its Muslims and Copts alike."

Christians make up around 10 per cent of Egypt's population, and have voiced concern over Islamists' rising influence.

To Rashad, the campaign shows Egyptians' characteristic sense of humour while sending a clear message. "The new Egypt we want is a civil state where all citizens will be treated equally regardless of their religion, ideology or gender."

"Our slogan for the coming stage is: Freedom, transparency, and nothing to hide," reads one satirical comment on the homepage of the one-million-bikini campaign. Another subscriber suggests the creation of a political party for bikini wearers, apparently scoffing at a plethora of political parties in post-Mubarak Egypt.

Authorities have recently recognized several new political parties, including Al Nour, the first Salafist party in this predominantly Muslim country.


07:51 Posted in Egypt | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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