BEIRUT

Middle East

Egypt moves to ban alcohol, belly dancing

A man buys the Muslim Brotherhood’s newspaper Al-Hurriya wal-Adala (Freedom of Justice) near a newsstand in Cairo.

CAIRO: Two years after the Egyptian revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, liberals are increasingly concerned that the ruling Islamists are out to curb personal freedoms and build a society in their own image. Nabil Abbas, the vice president of the New Urban Communities Authorities, told Reuters Sunday that the government would no longer issue licenses for the sale of alcohol in new residential settlements on the outskirts of Cairo, Alexandria and other big cities.

“NUCA has stopped renewing licenses to sell alcohol but the current ones will continue until they expire,” Abbas said.

“Representatives of the residents in new suburbs complained that the sale of alcohol leads to problems including attacking women and randomly ringing doorbells of people’s homes.”

Islamist President Mohammad Mursi’s government increased taxes on alcoholic beverages in December but then backed down after the move was criticized.

Earlier this month, an Egyptian court ordered the suspension of YouTube for a month for broadcasting a film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.

And a court in Egypt Sunday ordered a TV channel that airs belly dancing clips off the air for showing “sexually explicit” content and operating without a broadcast license. The judge Saturday said that ElTet airs ads that are “offensive” and can “arouse” viewers. The station carries advertisements for sexual enhancement products and matchmaking services.

A satirical poster circulated online Sunday in response to the alcohol curb. It listed some of Egypt’s main problems including road accidents, police brutality and poverty then showed a cartoon of Mursi dressed as Superman and that says “Must save Egypt from porn, alcohol and YouTube.”

Separately Sunday, thousands of demonstratorsblocked access to the harbor and rallied outside state buildings in Port Said Sunday, to demand justice over the deaths of dozens of people killed in anti-government riots last month.

About 60 people have been killed since late January in protests that erupted after the second anniversary of the uprising that overthrew Mubarak.

Port Said was one of three provinces where Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency.

Opposition groups have criticized Mursi’s perceived drift toward authoritarianism, which they say fueled this year’s unrest.

Amidst the continuing violence, Egypt’s chief of staff said Sunday that the country’s armed forces, which has for decades been at the center of power, will avoid involvement in politics but could still have a role if things became “complicated.”

Speaking at an industry event in Abu Dhabi, Maj. Gen. Sedki Sobhi said that in a week or 15 days some kind of national dialogue would take shape between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and oppositiongroups.

The army would not back any political party, he said.

“We are not political, we don’t want to participate in the political situation because we suffered a lot because of this in the last six months,” he said.

“But sometimes we can help in this problem, we can play this role if the situation became more complicated,” he said without elaborating.

Liberal and Islamist political leaders met privately Saturday to try to ease the latest tensions.

Politicians said Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent liberal activist and leader of the National Salvation Front, met Saad el-Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ruling Freedom and Justice Party. Another leader of the NSF, Sayed el-Badawi, also took part in the talks.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 18, 2013, on page 9.

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