The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The war on Christmas, Egyptian-style

Guess which MP wants to ban the sale of alcohol during Christmas and New Year? What's that? The Muslim Brotherhood? Nope. It's Ragab Hilal Hameida, the only elected Al Ghad MP (from the dissident faction, naturally).

Hemida denied that his call for the ban was the idea of the Muslim Brothers who have made similar demands in the past and now control 20 percent of the seats in parliament.

"The sale of alcoholic beverages violates Article 2 of the constitution, which states that Islamic sharia (law) shall be the main source of legislation," Hemida argued.

"I have sent an urgent memorandum to Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Tourism Minister Ahmed al-Maghrabi calling for a ban on the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages during Christmas and New Years.

"Muslims and Christians forbid these drinks," said Ragab Hilal Hemida, a member of parliament representing a breakaway faction of opposition leader Ayman Nur's Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) party.

This would be the first step to outlaw alcoholic beverages altogether, he added.
Of course, this is yet another example of Hameida--one of the most repulsive features of the Egyptian political landscape--being conveniently used by the regime to stir up trouble. The Brotherhood's position on alcohol, whatever it may have been in the past, is not to ban alcohol. In fact, Supreme Guide Mahdi Akef recently said in an interview that while the MB believes that alcohol is wrong, legally it is a matter of personal choice. With its current strategy of taking over the reformist mantle, the MB is not about to start campaigning on issues it can't win, like banning alcohol.

Seeing Hameida being used like this reminds me why I am not a Ayman Nour believer (in fact, very few people seem to be inside Egypt at least). Nour invited Hameida, who has had some success as a populist politician, into his party despite his well-known reputation as a troublemaker. It's one of the mistakes that Nour is now regretting, and why Egyptian liberals have to wait for someone better to represent them.