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Egypt's government showcases piety

Thanks to LWS for the link
Over the last week, several blogs have included reports about the Egyptian police arresting people for eating and smoking publicly during the day in Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to be fasting. At first I thought this might just be the action of a few individual officers or – since the blogs did not cite a source – perhaps it was nothing more than a rumour. I was shocked to discover that not only was it true, but it was also actually a campaign sponsored by Egypt's interior ministry.

A judicial source in the attorney general's office told the al-Shorouk newspaper that eating in public in Ramadan is elet adab (lack of decency), and added that the interior ministry issued a decree several years ago that gave police officers the right to arrest and fine anyone found eating publicly during Ramadan. Newspaper reports suggest that police have arrested more than 155 people, mainly in the tourist city of Aswan.

The interior ministry has defended the campaign and its spokesman, general Hamdy Abdel Karim, hit back at criticisms from human rights organisations saying: "They should learn to have some measure of decency. In the past, Egyptians used to be decent. I hope they return to it."

The increasing popularity of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood has forced the government to adopt a more righteous stance. The regime is keen to prove it is as pious as the Brotherhood, but, in a nation that was named by Gallup as the most religious country on the planet, the campaign is also an attempt to contain public discontent over some of the government's secular practices.

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