The outrageous public murder of a female university student at the hands of her classmate in the Egyptian city of Mansoura for refusing his advances and blocking him on a social media platform was nothing short of a heinous crime.
However, it is only another individual crime, the likes of which are often committed in most cities of the world. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the footage of the murder, but a crime bigger than this cold-blooded killing took place. Its target was society as a whole, and it used no weapons nor left bloodstains. All it took was a simple statement by Dr Mabrook Atiya and his likes. They justified the murderer’s actions and pitted society against the victim.
“Women and girls must wear the hijab to be able to live and must dress modestly to prevent seducing [men]. If your life is dear to you, leave your house covered and clothed modestly, not dressed to the nines, donning pants and letting your hair down, because then, if a ‘thirsty’ man sees you, he will murder you.”
What is meant by this explicit defense of the criminal and incitement to murder is that whenever a woman is murdered on the street because a man did not like her clothing or profession or otherwise, the criminal is the victim, not the murderer. Why this incitement when the young woman’s blood prints on the murderer’s hands have yet to dry? Because the extremist current will never cease to try and regain control over society.
It is what we have been saying for years. Behind the facade of modern clothing, multilingualism, branches in London and Washington, parliamentary seats, participation in high-level intellectual conferences, statements on human rights in major newspapers, and international organizations for societal development, this fascist group is no more than an extremist religious community with a decades-old hunger for controlling Muslim communities and societies.
Dr Atiya is a local model: he has lectured at many universities, spoken at international forums donning a suit and tie like any normal modern world citizen and opened accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and others.
However, the contemporary look, refined language, and advanced academic degrees still do not make Atiya any different from the sheikhs of Tora Bora and other terrorist organizations that either explicitly call for violence or justify and embellish it based on religious foundations.
The footage captured by shocked passersby and showing the man publicly murdering his classmate transcended Mansoura and Egypt when the sheikh’s sermons justified the murder. Is the slaying of a young woman for not covering her hair permissible? With his dangerous religious rhetoric, Sheikh Atiya turned this public issue from a local crime in a city 120 kilometers away from Cairo to an intellectual crime and religious issue. It brought societies across the Muslim world, not just the people of Mansoura, back to the debates on halal (permissible) versus haram (forbidden), and the individual’s right to use force versus the state’s duties to apply criminal and moral justice.
The extremist current thrives on terrorizing societies, and here it is again playing on people’s pains and dreams. Thousands across the region joined the debate and chimed in with their misogynistic two cents. As for the extremist sheikh, no sooner did he throw his extremist fanfare like a pebble into stagnant water than he announced he would be holding his last religious lecture and closing his YouTube channel.
The ‘scholar’ was aware that his statements pierced through the Islamic world like a bullet – or maybe worse. All it takes is for him to broadcast his rhetoric once and leave it to his thousands of followers to repeat the words of their beloved “scholar, sheikh, and university lecturer.” With his imagined fatwa, the sheik appointed himself judge and condemned the victim, turning the issue into a public debate dividing a society that has been fighting to leave the extremism and violence vortex ever since the intellectual crackdown on al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Muslim Brotherhood scholars.
It is not true that the points of contention with these groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are limited to their hunger for power. Despite backtracking from their political ambitions and holding truces with Arab governments recently, the problem with these groups stretches beyond their attempts to (re)gain power. It also includes the potential harm that they can cause to our societies, which they relentlessly aspire to control in every single aspect, be it religious, economic, or social.
To this very day, the Islamists who insist on directing public opinion toward extremism contribute to the widespread violence we see in our streets. In the near past, they directed the youth toward battlefields and terrorist camps. Following the security crackdown on their activities, today, their focus has shifted to “society awareness.”