Sunday, January 15, 2012

Abu Hasira debate that will never end

The shrine of rabbi Abu Hasira in Damtu , Damanhur is still making headlines especially this time of the year and the debate about whether Egypt should the annual ceremony “Moulid” or not.
Last week the Egyptian authorities decided to cancel the Moulid this year 2012 in what the locals of Damtu village have considered a victory for their long refusal to hold any festivities in the small village. They had complained from both the practices of Egypt security as well Jewish pilgrims especially from Israel annually for so many years “The Egyptian security used to turn their lives in to bloody hell for real.”
The festival or Moulid was scheduled for 9 to 10 January this year.The locals of Damtu had already started campaigning against it when the decision was announced.  Later it turned out that the Egyptian authorities informed the Israeli decision before that by two weeks because of the current security situation in Egypt.
Now “Bloggers against Abu Hasira” group has raised the bar and is demanding a DNA test to prove that there are no bodies in the shrine at all and that it was hoax. The Bloggers group insist that there were no Jews in Damtu in the first place so there would be a shrine for a Jewish Rabbi and that they will publish the history of the village to prove. It is a bold claim without doubt.
Jewish organizations from around the globe are opening their fire on Egypt , the Israeli conservative rabbis are missing Mubarak and praying for him accusing the Muslim brotherhood of antisemitism to the end of that talk.  
Unlike what you think the movement is not following to MB despite I know that there are MB members support it but it also includes other activists from other political parties and groups from Damanhur including ElBaradei support campaign and April 6 Youth movement in Behaira governorate.  The bloggers against Abu Hasira started their campaign in 2007. It is more of political nationalist issue than a religious one.
Aside from the usual debate about Abu Hasira and whether we should hold the festival or not , the decision of the Egyptian authorities this year opened another debate or another decision and that’s the Moulids in general especially with the rise of the Salafists politically.
The Salafists are totally against the Islamic Moulid celebrations their important religious and social significance, they do not even recognize the celebrations Muslims held in Egypt like the Moulid of Emam El Hussein , the grandson of Prophet Mohamed “PBUH”.
Needless to speak they do not recognize the Christian Moulids or festival like “The Virign Moulid”
Many liberals as well Christians feared that the decision to cancel “Abu Hasira” festival is the beginning of an age to cancel other Moulids and festivals.
They fear that cancelling a festival like “Abu Hasira” , a hated event among Egyptians due to politics more than anything will be the introduction for the cancellation of other religious festivals gradually.
We all agree that there are wrong practices in all these festivals especially in the country side but they should not be completely prohibited, on the contrary they should be organized properly.
I believe they have to be worried but I think the relation between Egypt’s religious icons from saints and “The Prophet Mohamed’s house” is too deep in a way that it will not be ended by a rise of  religious trend politically because when I look to the history of this great nation , you will know that we had been through all kinds of rulers including extremists and yet that fascination with Muslim and Christian Saints did not end.
I do not believe that the festivals will be cancelled insh Allah because when it comes to “Abu Hasira” we are speaking here about politics more than anything. I do not believe that the decision about “Abu Hasira” will be over as well.
Here is a recorded clip allegedly from inside the shrine during the festival in 2010.
Damtu : Abu Hasira Shrine from inside
Another video from Damtu from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Channel “Misr 25”
Misr 25 : Human shields to prevent Abu Hasira Moulid from 6 days ago
The Egyptian media was not allowed for once to transfer or cover the festival ever, it was like a military zone literally despite it was being bold on Egyptian land.
Only this year the locals and reporters were allowed to the come close to the shrine “I do not know if they were let in or not”


  1. I really hope that the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood just leave the Maulids alone!

    All I hear from these people is that the Maulids are full of drugs & prostitution, yet in the 10 years I have been visiting and photographing the Maulids in Cairo, Said Badawi and Desouk I have never seen any such behaviour.

    What I have encountered is an atmosphere of kindness and love.

    Maulids are Sufi Muslim events. Sufis have the right to their Islamic views as do Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood.

    From being an observer of the Maulids, I now feel actually part of the Maulids! It is wonderful to walk around with my cameras and be welcomed by the various Sheikhs in their kidmihas (tents).

    The sadness as an old truly loved Sheikh passes away and yet the satisfaction in seeing his disciple replace him.

    I do agree that the level of Islamic knowledge is not very high, but there are many really good people there, just doing things their way, as it has been done for many years.

    Please look at faces of the people in my photos taken at various Maulids. One sees love and enjoyment, not a scowl and anger!

    I really hope that the Maulids will continue and I will continue to have the privilege of photographing the amazing characters who attend.

    Terry Jones

    1. Well Mr.Terry from what I understood the wrong practices are usually happened in less known faraway Maulids not like in Cairo or in Tanta or in Desouk , these are big Maulids.
      Again I think they are proper organization for such events , non of these wrong practices would have taken place and stained the spiritual nature of these festivals.

  2. Have you ever been to Damanhour? Well, a few of the very old houses and buildings have the Star of David on them. This is because there was an *Egyptian* Jewish community there, just as there were communities of Egyptian Jews in other towns&cities in Egypt. Most of them were good, loyal citizens. They all either left voluntarily or were driven out of Egypt because of the anger towards them that spread after the establishment of Israel. A few Egyptian Jews have published books about their memories in Egypt which mostly reflect a sense of love and loss. Let me know if you want some book recommendations :)

    1. Believe me I know very well about the Jewish community in Egypt pre-1967 , Bloggers against Abu Hasira did not speak about the Jewish community in Damanhour but rather in the village of Damtu itself.

  3. This really does look like a supression of religious traditions and it's not just Egypt either. We're seeing the similar things here in the U.S. A city not wanting to permit the building of mosque. A religious celebration not permitted at a school. But the worse is secular decorations tied to Christmas not permitted in public buildings.
    These celebrations are what make our cultures different and interesting. They should be permitted to continue.

  4. So am I right to assume that the main problem is the Egyptian security itself? They harass the people of Damtu in order to portect the visitors. Well, they should be re-trained by their superiors to start treating Egyptians better especially after the Revolution.
    As for the shrine itself, if there were Jewish communities in Behaira, then it's not far-fetched to expect that Abu Hasira was buried in one of the small villages in the vicinity. And in any case, spiritual beliefs do not necessarily follow from scientific evidence. The place has acquired a spiritual significance for some Jews, any scientific tests will not change this. They merely serve to insult these believers.
    The visitors to Abu Hasia should be informed about local traditions and should be expected to respect them. However, Egyptian authorities generally treat locals with contempt and hold tourists to be superior. Just look at some of the beaches in Sharm. If your own authorities are racist towards you, what do you expect from foreigners?
    Ps. You need a good editor to avoid all these spelling&grammar mistakes.


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