Never judge an Islamist by his beard: new Arab rulers reveal sleazy underbelly

Published January 13th, 2013 - 15:07 GMT

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Ali Wanees former member of Salafi Nour Party
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Image 1 of 8: Not much has been heard of Egyptian uber-Islamist Ali Wanees since he was caught with his pants down - literally. Police found the ultra-conservative MP, of the Salafi Nour Party, showing a veiled teen the strength of his devotion in a parked car in Cairo. He denied having sex with her, saying that she was a sick relative he was trying to revive.

Rafik Abdessalem was embroiled in Sheraton Gate
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Image 1 of 8: Was she a mistress, or a member of the family in need? We may never know for sure. But Tunisia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Rafik Abdessalem, who spent $300 of public funds per night on a woman’s hotel bills in what has been dubbed ‘Sheraton Gate’, will have to face the music in an upcoming court case.

Anwar al-Balkimy post-nose-op and his rumored belly-dancer wife
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Image 1 of 8: The adage that out of crisis comes opportunity has been embraced by Islamists in Egypt, who have capitalized on a chance for cosmetic change. Anwar Balkimy said he was beaten by robbers, but was dismissed from the Nour party after an investigation unveiled a nose job. The new look apparently worked, as he soon wed Syrian bellydancer Sama Masri.

Khairat el-Shater disqualified for criminal
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Image 1 of 8: Crimes of passion: Khairat el-Shater ran all guns blazing on an Islamist platform - for the Freedom and Justice squad- in Egypt’s elections before being disqualified as a former convict. So it came as a surprise to many when it was revealed he was married to a glamourous Syrian fashion model.

Morsi scratches his balls in a meeting with Australia's PM
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Image 1 of 8: Morsi shows he's got balls! Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi showed he could handle a reshuffle when he met Australian PM Julia Gillard last year. Morsi provoked more than a few cringe-tinged chuckles when he rearranged his private parts in a live meeting with Gillard. Luckily for all, the other side weren't interested in a power grab.

Rachid Ghannouchi’s daughters - Yousra (Right)
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Image 1 of 8: Son-in-law puts Islamist founding father to shame: It was revealed that the MP involved in the Sheraton Gate scandal is married to co-founder of Tunisia's Ennahda party Rachid Ghannouchi’s daughter. Ghannouchi suggested the blogger who exposed the affair, Olfat Riahi, take 80 lashes for providing false testimony, while others wanted her sued.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir
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Image 1 of 8: All mouth and no trousers: Talk is cheap, but Lebanese Salafi cleric Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir is scraping the barrel. The preacher was expected to threaten holy war and set up an armed jihadi group under his command in November. Instead he threatened to hold a sit in protest.

Libya's Mohamed Magarief, President of General National Congress
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Image 1 of 8: Deck the Islamic corridors of piety with plush furnishings? An audit in Libya showed the interim government, of less than a year, spending "$3.9 billion" on "offices & furniture", in the words of Head of Islamist-coalition-state Mohamed Magarief. This admin tab is not far off the sum spent on development programs to improve the lives of Libyans.

As the debris from the revolutionary storm to power has begun to settle on the new Islamist forces that be, we cast an eye over the region’s religious revolutionary guard to assess how those untouchable bearded arbiters of the state are getting along. From the shadows of their erstwhile underground stations, while Arab dictators ruled them, to rehabilitated positions as leading lights to steer post Arab Spring states, the climb to their high horses has been a reply to repression, and a long time coming.

Still, society is keen to test those in power, and no rulers more than those reigning in religious robes. Laymen, atheists or bystanders of moderate Muslim stripes might be just a little tempted to judge those holier than thou governing under the auspices of the heavens.

Promises to rule by total application of Sharia all the way to softer plans to Islamicize the already-conservative Arab way of life, or at least get tough with the West, is there enough substance to their talk and threats? At least 6 months since some Islamist regimes started ruling Arabs, we start a tab to log Islamist contradiction all the way to outright scandal.

Hypocrisy feelers out, we should remind ourselves of the job description of those we judge. Above all else, these holders of public office should be sticking to the revolutionary remit the people charged them with executing on their democratic behalf: the constructing of a state made up from institutions and rule of law as building blocks. Oh, and then practicing what they preach- whether it's a holy jihad or a puritan law.

The Islamist bigwigs have come out of the woodwork into the harsh light of day and laid bare their beards for tooth-combing. Previously they were hindered from putting their money where their Muslim mouths were, whether kept on a tight underground leash in Egypt or suppressed and snuffed out in Libya where state TV prime time viewers were privy to their suffering and executions.

Now that they’ve been let out to rule, have they given us anything to quibble or cringe over, or have they maintained their public veneer as the pristine pious God Squad with no flies on them? Are they merely religious crusaders come to atone for the sins of the Arab dictators who ruled with eccentric personalities and skewed secular codes? Now that they are armed to the teeth with ‘democracy’ and charges of sedition at their disposal, can they deliver on what the people deserve rather than misguidedly want? Some are pointing out that there could be an atheist backlash on the rise.

Can the bar set from the revolutionary idealism of 2011 prevail under these servants of God’s law? Or does the human side of Islamist government belie a more banal truth, where seedy deeds trump the good ones. Fake noses, flashy beards, false promises - these are just some of the scandals that have rocked a resurgent Islam in the Middle East halls of power today. It's a case of do what I say, as ruling Islamists have struggled to practice what they preach across the Maghreb and the newly revolutionized Arab club.

Exposing an Islamist ring seething with scandal and sleaze, beneath the surface, can we assume that God-given power corrupts absolutely? The true colors of Islamist leaders, painted in a shady palette, presented. 

 

Have your say: Are the new breed of Islamist rulers walking on thin ice as they rack up a tab of hypocrisy and scandal? Or are we just splitting beard hairs, fault-finding in an right-wing arena bound to be rife with flaws. Is this just Tory-sleaze in Arab politics?

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