Egypt’s secular culture minister ruffles Salafi feathers

Oct 13, 2015

By Rami Galal

On Sept. 19, a new Egyptian Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, was sworn in before President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Among the new ministers is the journalist Hilmi al-Namnam, who holds the culture portfolio. The appointment of Namnam, a secularist, has sparked controversy among Egyptian Salafis and aroused opposition in Saudi Arabia. Such Saudi writers and intellectuals as Jamal Khashoggi, editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel, object to Namnam’s appointment because he opposes Wahhabi Salafism, the religiopoliticial movement that originated in the Nejd region of the Saudi kingdom.

Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab founded what became the Wahhabi movement in the 18th century. In 1744, Wahhab allied with Muhammad ibn Saud, emir of the Nejd and founder of the first Saudi state, to increase followers of the Quran, Sunnism and the words and actions of the Salaf, the first three generations of Muslims. In doing so, they sought to purify Islam of misguided practices negatively affecting the Islamic essence of unity and various forms of heresy.

Immediately after Namnam assumed the culture portfolio, a video of him from July 2013 went viral. In it, Namnam stated, “The political Islam current must leave the political game completely, especially the Salafist Nour Party, which is more dangerous than the Muslim Brotherhood.” He compared the Nour Party to a “whore who extorts her husband if he doesn’t fulfill her demands by escorting someone else.” Namnam also said, “We lie when we say Egypt is a naturally religious country. It is high time we said Egypt is a naturally secular state.”

The Nour Party came in second in the 2012 parliamentary elections. Among its positions at the time were prohibitions on electing women and Copts, saluting the flag and singing the national anthem. The party altered these platforms, however, after lending its stamp of approval in 2013 to the June 30 revolution, although most of its leading figures wavered over what course to take.

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11 comments on “Egypt’s secular culture minister ruffles Salafi feathers

  • “We lie when we say Egypt is a naturally religious country. It is high time we said Egypt is a naturally secular state.”

    This is very positive.

    He compared the Nour Party to a “whore who extorts her husband if he doesn’t fulfill her demands by escorting someone else.”

    This is a deal breaker.

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  • 2
    voiceofarabi says:

    This topic is very close to my heart and I know a lot about it.. so I will explain it in details.

    First, we need to understand this….
    Muslim Brotherhood = Wahhabis = ISIS (all these three are the same – they claim to be different, but in essence they are all not accepting of others, and their past will prove how violent and bloody they are.

    All other names like Al Qaeda, Salafi, etc etc.. are born from the same thinking, and therefore are the same.

    We have to also understand… The majority of Middle Eastern people (including Iran and Turkey) are conservative, and follow their traditions and customs very closely, but they are not religious nut jobs. They live and let live, as long as you don’t force things upon them.

    Now, and here where you can make a difference…

    You see, back in the 1950’s, the “Free World” ( and whenever I say the Free World, I mean Western powers headed by the United States of America – NOT WESTERN PEOPLE) has appointed lots of “mad dictators” to “run” countries in the middle east any way they like, as long as they follow the “Free World” foreign policies, and we ended up with Sadam Husain, Gadhafi, Assad, etc etc.. Even Khomeini came to power with the help of the “Free World”, but then he decided to tell the Free World to go to hell….

    However, since the success of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan back in the late 1980’s a lot has change, and since the “Free World” was getting tired of those dictators as they were failing to even deliver on protecting “Free World” foreign policies, they decided to replace them with Faith based organization to “run” the middle east, and they have identified Muslim Brotherhood as viable option, and only slightly “cleaner” than Wahhabis.

    Since then, we have seen the Muslim Brotherhood being supported/groomed and helped by the “Free World” to take power of the middle east, and Turkey was the first victim country, followed by Tunisai, followed Egypt, and they hoped to convert the entire middle east, and then only have to deal with one crazy dictator “system”, instead of dealing with many little middle eastern dictators.

    That’s why Muslim Brotherhood HQ is in the UK, and that’s why USA support Mohammed Mursi of Egypt to get to power (and they were against his removal)…

    Now.. You can help if you live in the “Free World”… Ask you MP, or congress person, or your government where they stand on Muslim Brotherhood.. Ask them what steps are they taking to stop them from converting the average Middle Eastern citizen from a normal citizen into a religious nut job…..

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  • ” Saudi writers and intellectuals” oppose him?

    Aren’t those exactly the people who are supposed to support secularism? If writers and intellectuals oppose secularism, what chance does a society have? Not much intellectual thinking going on there…

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  • Dog Almighty
    Oct 14, 2015 at 9:20 am

    ” Saudi writers and intellectuals” oppose him?

    What passes for an intellectual in a theocracy, is not the same an intellectual in an scientifically educated society!

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  • In theocracies, what we, in the ‘West’, call “intellectuals”…. are called ‘dangerous heretics’, and/or ‘blasphemous terrorists’, and usually live far away from their own countries.


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  • I agree with 99% of your analysis. However, when you write :

    whenever I say the Free World, I mean Western powers headed by the
    United States of America – NOT WESTERN PEOPLE ,

    I think you confuse the container and the contained.

    Of course, we all know that the phrase “Free World” was a piece of sheer propaganda, coined during the Cold War to put cultural (and psychological) pressure on the Warsaw Pact countries — and its inhabitants.

    But nevertheless, it reflected a real state of affairs. People living in Western Europe and North America were undoubtedly freer than those in Eastern Europe, Soviet Union or communist China.

    To illustrate my point : if 1968’s Chicago turmoil (‘Yippies’) or Paris uprising (‘Enragés’) had happened in what was called “the Second World”, death casualties would have been countered by the hundreds.

    What then ?

    Well… I suggest that you replace “Free World” with “NATO”, as the latter reflects the governmental aspect of what can be called ‘the West’, and perfectly fits your own definition (as quoted above) !

    Swap these two terms in your text, and you’ll see that they suddenly gain in accuracy…..

    [No hard feelings].

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  • 8
    voiceofarabi says:

    Hi x-bone,

    Come to think of it, you are actually correct…

    English is my third language, and it fails me often, but NATO is a lot more accurate…

    thanks for that..

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  • The appointment is good news, and thanks to voiceofarabi for the analysis, which is unfortunately likely to be sound — the Free World / NATO / short-sighted ‘Western’ governments do like to support temporarily convenient regimes without any real commitment to the future of their citizens.
    Unfortunately the new minister is something of a pebble on the beach where the battle will be fought. The appointment will be shortlived and he will sink in the sand before anyone in Western politics has time to learn to pronounce his name, but it is reassuring that people like him hold on and keep pushing for change. If there is anything anyone in the West can do to signal support and encourage our meddling politicians to do the same, they should do it. I will.

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