[ilds] New, Conservative Alexandria

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Mon Jun 11 11:13:11 PDT 2007

Alexandria still?


-----Forwarded Message-----
>From: Glenn Meyer <glenn at glennmeyer.net>
>Sent: Jun 11, 2007 10:09 AM
>To: undisclosed-recipients at null, null at null
>Subject: [arcenc] New, conservative Alexandria - baltimoresun.com
>  New, conservative Alexandria
>An ancient center of enlightenment is under tight hand of Islamic religion
>Associated Press
>Originally published June 10, 2007
>ALEXANDRIA, Egypt // A white marble statue of a nude Aphrodite in a 
>playful pose is on display in the antiquities museum of the Library of 
>Alexandria. One story up, sociology major Dalia Mohammed, a devout 
>Muslim covered head to toe, is studying for a spring term paper.
>The ancient sculpture of the Greek goddess of beauty and the Egyptian 
>student represent contrasting Alexandrias.
>The statue, discovered at a spot close to the library, harks back to the 
>Mediterranean city's days as the center of enlightenment in the ancient 
>world - and its 19th and 20th century past as a place where Muslims, 
>Christians and Jews of different ethnic backgrounds lived in harmony.
>Mohammed is a child of today's Alexandria - a city that has divorced 
>itself from its liberal traditions and easygoing ways and instead 
>adopted religious conservatism, with Islamists holding sway.
>It is the way most Egypt has gone. But given Alexandria's fabled past, 
>there might not be another place in this nation of 77 million people - 
>mostly Muslim but with a significant Christian minority - where the 
>change is more pronounced.
>The only women in Alexandria who don't wear the Islamic veil are 
>Christians and a small minority of Muslims. Women have long stopped 
>wearing swimsuits on the city's popular beaches. Those who wish to take 
>a swim do so in the darkness before dawn.
>"Alexandrians have lost their traditional ties to the beach and sea," 
>lamented Mona Abdel-Salam, 42, an independent journalist who says she 
>would wear a swimsuit only on exclusive private beaches or at the pools 
>in luxury hotels.
>Most of the city's famous bars, restaurants and night spots are no 
>longer in business, their owners long ago returned to Europe. Only a few 
>- mostly elderly people - remain from the once prosperous and large 
>expatriate community of Greeks, Cypriots, Italians, French and Armenians 
>who once made Alexandria Egypt's most cosmopolitan city.
>The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamist group, has 
>more lawmakers elected from Alexandria than from any other city. The 
>city of 5 million people also has a large Salafi movement, a brand of 
>Islam more extreme than the Brotherhood - its followers are recognized 
>by their long beards and shorter than usual robes.
>They preach a ban on contacts between Muslims and Christians, and 
>residents blame them for violent clashes with Christians in recent years.
>The city's move toward fundamentalism has driven away the wealthy and 
>secular middle-class Egyptians who once flocked to Alexandria in the 
>summer for its beaches and nightlife.
>It is a far cry from the Alexandria depicted in dozens of famous 
>Egyptian movies dating back to the 1940s, in which young men and women 
>found love while vacationing in the city. Endless popular songs from the 
>era laud the city's cool sea breeze, the beauty of its women and how 
>easily love flourishes.
>Mohammed is more the model for the new Alexandria.
>She says she avoids contact with men in her college, doesn't go to the 
>beach for reasons of modesty and has only Christian acquaintances, not 
>friends, in her mixed neighborhood of Muharram Bey, the scene of 
>Muslim-Christian clashes in late 2005 and early 2006 that killed six people.
>"We cannot be close friends with Christians, but we can be civil to each 
>other," she said.
>The older of two daughters born to a father working in the Persian Gulf 
>and a homemaker mother, Mohammed says she began wearing the veil out at 16.
>"I felt it was the right time for me," said the slender young woman, 
>though she wears the bright colors, tight top and loads of jewelry 
>popular among young women who strive to fuse Islamic modesty with being 
>"You cannot say that what I am wearing is strictly Islamic, but it will 
>do for now," she said with a smile. "I will wear loose clothes when I am 
>What has influenced a young woman like Mohammed to become so 
>conservative and insular is the story of Egypt, where authoritarian 
>rule, chronic economic woes and a culture of corruption have pushed 
>millions to find refuge in a strict interpretation of their faith.
>President Hosni Mubarak has shown zero tolerance for militant Islamic 
>groups, jailing thousands and endorsing the execution of dozens since 
>coming to office 25 years ago. At the same time, his government has 
>sought to match the appeal of Islamist groups such as the Brotherhood, 
>cracking down on public shows of irreverence to religion and dragging 
>its feet on granting women and Christians full rights.
>Combined, the spread of religious fundamentalism, economic hardship and 
>the political exclusion of most Egyptians have built an increasingly 
>intolerant society, resistant to change and suspicious of outsiders.
>"You are lonely in Alexandria if you're not religious," said Malek 
>Mustapha, a 29-year-old political blogger who makes a living designing 
>Internet sites.
>The departure of the city's large expatriate community in the 1950s and 
>1960s, when revolutionary leader Gamal Abdel Nasser pursued hard-line 
>nationalist policies, dealt the first blow to the city's cosmopolitan 
>Next came waves of migrants from Egypt's conservative countryside in the 
>1960s. Later, many left for the oil-rich Gulf region for better incomes.
>Tens of thousands returned to Alexandria, bringing back the Islamic 
>conservatism prevailing in much of the Gulf.
>"Everyone of them brought a satchel full of conservative and antiquated 
>patterns of behavior," said Hosni Abdel-Malak, a 58-year-old Egyptology 
>Islamists boast of their gains in the city.
>"There are no Muslim secularists in Alexandria. Only Christians," said 
>Osama al-Adawy, a microbiology professor at the University of Alexandria 
>and a local Muslim Brotherhood leader.
>In Muharram Bey, Mohammed's mixed neighborhood, the Islamist influence 
>is clear in the hundreds of leaflets plastered on homes, schools and 
>storefronts, reading: "Prayer is the backbone of your faith," "Thanks be 
>to God for he has shown me the way to the veil," and "Whoever quits 
>praying or drinks alcohol is a pagan."

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