Government turns on Sufis after getting rid of Brotherhood

NOVANEWS
By: Tareq Al-Dib
The Sufi community remained steadfast in their efforts during these attempts by declaring that the Refai mosque is a sacred shrine for their followers. The international Sufi community stood by their Sufi brethren in their fight against Egyptian authorities

The Egyptian government has recently decided to exclude more religious minorities from the political scene having already eliminated the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in quite a frightening way. The new scapegoats for the Egyptian political arena are the some four million citizens who consider themselves loyal to the Refai-Sufi tradition in the country. This particular sect of Sufism has been practicing its own code of law for approximately 118 years.This war on Sufism in Egypt began with the Ministry of Awqaf’s recent decision to remove the Mosque of Sidi Ahmed Al-Refai from under its jurisdiction and place it under the control of the Ministry of State Antiquities. While the Ahmed Refai mosque is a central and key location for all Sufis following the Refai tradition, the Egyptian government now claims the site is of archaeological importance not just to Sufis but also to every citizen of Egypt. Consequently the mosque will no longer be available for public access as a place of holy worship and instead will be considered an important archaeological site for the entire country.

This is not the fist time that the Egyptian government has tried to pull a religious site away from the Sufi community. There was another attempt in 1998 when the council of ministers issued a decision that sought to seize control of any building of archaeological importance within a certain period. Although the Sidi Ahmed Al-Refai mosque was initially among the buildings in question, the government’s attempt ultimately failed due to the Sufi community’s insistence on maintaining control of their holy shrines. The situation calmed briefly only to ignite again in 2004 when the Secretary-General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities issued decision number 243, ordering the evacuation of the Refai Mosque due to its classification as an important archaeological site. The tourism police were ordered to prosecute all violators and trespassers according to article 117 of the antiquities protection law issued implemented in 1983.

The Sufi community remained steadfast in their efforts during these attempts by declaring that the Refai mosque is a sacred shrine for their followers. The international Sufi community stood by their Sufi brethren in their fight against Egyptian authorities.

On 14 July 2014, the Egyptian authorities issued decision number 164 to the Ministry of State Antiquities where it was decided that: “The Minister of Awqaf has agreed that all occupants must evacuate the Refai Mosque so that it may be handed over to the Ministry of Antiquities”.

In addition, the government also decided to confiscate the home of the Refai Sufi Sheikh Tariq Yaseen Al-Refai because he allegedly lived in part of a historically significant mosque. Sheikh Tariq Yaseen Al-Refai responded by saying, “The government has waged a new fight with the Sufis after they were already subjugated under the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, which saw to the destruction of many Sufi shrines. Yet a new government has come to fight the Sufis and our way of thought”.

Sheikh Al-Refai called upon the state to resolve this impending crisis though he remained sceptical of state and Brotherhood forces “working together to see to the demise of Sufi thought”.

Al Refai directed his statements directly to Al-Sisi when he said: “We participated in the June 30th revolution and we played a very clear role. Four million Sufis came out to the streets to see to the removal of President Morsi from office and in return we ask you to respect and protect our holy shrines. We are a large reason for your being president”.

“We do not have a single party that represents us and in spite of this we have never tried to create our own party. Why must the government insist on standing against us? The state must respect the Sufis, their sheikhs and the importance of this mosque”, Al-Refai continued.

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