Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1128, 27 December 2012 - 2 January 2013

Ahram Weekly

Supporters of the Salafi boss

Amany Maged writes about the possible political role Hazemoun could play

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Al-Ahram Weekly

In the run-up to the constitutional referendum Egypt split into two camps and engaged in a vicious tug-of-war. On the one side were the liberals led by the National Salvation Front (NSF). On the other were the Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood in league with the supporters of Hazem Salah Abu Ismail who have become known as the Hazemoun.

Hazemoun have attracted no small degree of attention and controversy. For several days they camped out in front of the Media Production City, staging a sit-in whose daily programme began with dawn prayers then proceeded through some calisthenics, more prayers and Quran recitations, then concluded with the slaughtering of some camels which were then hacked up to prepare rich stews.

The Hazemoun were keen on actively participating in many of the Islamist demonstrations. The last was the one staged in front of Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria on Friday under the title “In defence of mosques and Muslim preachers”. Held in reaction to the detention of Sheikh Mohamed Al-Mahallawi in that mosque the previous Friday, the demonstration erupted into violent brawls that resulted in dozens of wounded in both the Islamist and non-Islamist camps.

The Hazemoun have since disclaimed all involvement in the violence, claiming that it was “thugs” who attacked the opponents of President Morsi. Many had remarked upon the conspicuous absence of Abu Ismail himself from the demonstrations that he had instigated.

In a new development concerning the Islamist movement, the chairman of the Salafist Nour Party Emad Abdel-Ghafour and some other leading members were said to have submitted their resignations in order to form a new party.

What is clear is that the Hazemoun are a major piece in the Muslim Brotherhood/Salafist chess game against the liberal forces. When demonstrators protested in front of the presidential palace, which Islamists claimed was preparatory to an assault on the palace itself, the Hazemoun responded by laying siege to the Media Production City. “The opponents [to President Morsi] forced us to do this in response to their massing in front of Al-Ittihadiya. But we did not harm anyone,” said Gamal Saber, coordinator of the Hazemoun. Like in chess, the idea was to block the move of the opponent, but that did not mean they were unprepared to act. They proclaimed that if the “liberals” invade Al-Ittihadiya, then they — the Hazemoun — would invade the Media Production City.

But who are these people that have come to figure so prominently in a game that is still in progress?

Gamal Saber relates that when Hazem Abu Ismail ran for presidency last spring, a group was formed to support him. Calling itself the “Lazem Hazem” (It has to be Hazem) campaign, it organised several pro-Abu Ismail rallies. Then, when the Supreme Elections Committee disqualified Abu Ismail on the grounds of his mother’s US nationality, it organised several demonstrations. However, Saber explains that the seed for the Hazemoun was actually planted following the 25 January Revolution when dozens of young men decided to espouse the revolutionary demands from an Islamist perspective from already established groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The Hazemoun were not originally connected to Abu Ismail, Saber said. In fact, the group’s real name is the Revolutionary Islamic Movement. Only later did its members realise that Abu Ismail expresses their ideas clearly and, therefore, they signed up with the movement that supported him and that has since become known as the Hazemoun.

 The Hazemoun bill themselves as “a peaceful Islamic youth movement whose mission is to protect the revolution from retrogression”. A key element is to support the person and calling of Abu Ismail whose supporters regard him as “the man of the hour, a conscious and sage leader, a man with a mission that needs someone to champion it.” 

The Hazemoun support the struggle of Arab and Muslim peoples for liberation from “foreign and domestic” occupation. They do not recognise the legitimacy of rulers or governments that are not elected by their peoples and that do not abide by the strictures of Islam. Nor do they recognise borders that were drawn by the enemies of these people. All Muslims form a single ummah (nation) and the unity of Muslim countries is a religious duty and a practical necessity. This unity, they say, will solve all conspiracies that are being hatched against them at this dangerous stage.

The movement’s members also seek to simplify Sharia law for the people. Saber explains, “they want to highlight the virtues of this law and its applications in all fields of life, and they want to eliminate the fears that corrupt regimes sowed in the minds of people through modern innovative means that go beyond generalities and slogans.”

The members further believe, according to Saber, that a major battle awaits the Islamic ummah following the destruction of the corrupt regimes. This battle is to build a righteous Islamic order. The Hazemoun are working to raise public awareness of the importance of this battle and to enlist people’s participation.

Neither a political party nor an Islamist society, Hazemoun has no political or ideological literature of its own. But it welcomes everyone who agrees with its principles, regardless of their partisan or ideological affiliation, and it encourages them to become active members and to participate in its various educational and political activities. It determines its positions through shura (consultation) among its members who all share responsibility for and participate in the conduct of operations.

Although membership is open to all, there are conditions. Above all, members must obey the directives of the leadership which consists of a commander and an executive bureau in which there is a commander of the wings and an official in charge of the governorate branches. The movement has four major wings:

- The revolutionary wing which supervises the revolutionary activities and services the movement performs and in which all members are expected to take part.

- The media wing, which is made up of media specialists and talents who are in charge of expressing the movement’s mission and its campaigns through audiovisual and textual means. They may be assisted by volunteers.

- The educational wing which is responsible for organising various awareness-raising, religious, cultural and skill-development training courses and programmes. Particular focus is given to Abu Ismail’s lectures and television series.

- The movement also has women among its members and they make up the fourth wing. Although women or “sisters” may take part in the activities of the three wings, they also have administrative functions as well as activities that concern women alone.

The Hazemoun thus appears to be a fairly tight organised entity which helps explain the rapidity with which they set up their blockade around the Media Production City. The movement believes it is their right to engage in this kind of action. They have set their crosshairs on privately owned satellite television studios, in particular, on the grounds that these serve as a cover for those that seek to “undermine the legitimacy of President Mohamed Morsi”. They also charge that these media are a “huge tail of the former regime”.

If Abu Ismail approved the siege on the media city, he denied all responsibility for the attack on the Wafd Party headquarters in the subsequent siege on the nearby Dokki police station. Many quarters of the media held otherwise, but a member of the Hazemoun campaign, who chose to remain anonymous, held that this was typical of the private media outlets which make no secret of their opposition to the Islamists’ arrival to power and which now charge that members of the Hazemoun, acting on the orders of Sheikh Abu Ismail, are targeting the opponents of the Islamist trend. The source went on to deny that the Hazemoun were involved in the assault on the Wafd Party headquarters and the Dokki police station. “The accusations are groundless and the security commander who had initially made that allegation realised he had been precipitous and retracted it the next day,” he said.

Now, the Hazemoun are waiting for the liberals to make their next move. They are on guard against any “liberal anarchy” especially in the form of an NSF-led attempt to “topple the constitution peacefully”. And they vow to respond to whatever actions the NSF takes until they knock out every last pawn off the chessboard. But will they be able to put the liberal “king” in checkmate? The Hazemoun are certain to have an answer for that soon.

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