A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fatal Stabbing in Suez: A Case of Salafi Vigilantism?

The stabbing death of a young man who was walking with his fiancee in Suez when he was approached and rebuked by three bearded men in galabiyyas (the conservative Islamist "uniform") has provoked alarm in Egypt, especially since the killing has reputedly been claimed by a shadowy "Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice," modeled presumably on the Saudi religious police body of that name but unofficial and essentially a vigilante group. I call the group "shadowy" because when it first made itself known some months back through a Facebook page, reporters could not locate any actual members, spokesmen, offices, etc. and it appeared to exist only on Facebook. Although its Facebook page now appears to have been removed, perhaps by Facebook for taking credit for a crime, blogger Zeinobia has an image of their declaration in Arabic, though she clearly suspects old regime elements trying to provoke anger at Islamists, rather than real Islamists. Such provocateurs did operate under the former regime, and the notion is not impossible.

The Muslim Brotherhood has denounced the killing, but it will further serve to raise questions in the minds of many Egyptians about what the future of Egypt may look like. Whether real radical Salafis did this, which seems likely, or provocateurs aiming at blaming them, the young man is still dead and the alarm among many Egyptians is real.

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