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Religious fervor rises in Egypt

ICC Note

As Muslims in Egypt are becoming more fervent about their religion, their intolerance towards Christians and others is growing.

05/21/2008 Egypt (US Copts Association)-Every day for the past five years, Ahmed Gamil has begun his morning shift as a taxi driver by tuning into a radio station that broadcasts the Quran.

“How else would I start my day?” Mr Gamil said during a recent journey downtown. “My life is so miserable, religion is the only thing that prevents me from committing suicide.”

There are increasing signs across Egypt of Islamic fervour, including devotion to the Quran and outward manifestations such as women wearing veils and men growing beards. Some analysts put this down to a lack of other outlets for personal expression.

The few unveiled women in the metro were Christians.

“I look like a Copt, that’s why I’m spared, I guess,” said Mona Eissa, 28, as she was running to catch the women’s car in the metro. Another woman in a niqab was distributing flyers upon which were written slogans:

“You will be questioned about the veil in doomsday” and “The veil is a religious duty”.

The religious phenomenon is not rooted in politics, Mr Chobaki said. “It’s rather a superficial and apparent Islamisation and religiosity, an unprecedented close conservative culture that is not only not tolerant of other religions but of secular and less religious Muslims. It is causing real suffering.”

The phenomenon is not only Islamic. There is a similar parallel among Coptic Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of the population, but its expression is private. Many Christians now tattoo crosses on their arms.

Some complain that intolerance has grown alongside the trend toward religiosity. “Sometimes I’m harassed and insulted at the street because I’m wearing the cross,” said Heba, 35, a secretary, who would only give her first name.

At Sabaya, a new hairdresser and cafe for “veiled women only”, Hanan Turk, the owner and a famous actress who donned the veil last year, said she does not have non-veiled women as customers.

There is no talk about other spiritual or moral aspects of Islam; they are more concerned about the veil.”

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