Middle East Middle East Institute Published Articles

Salafyo Costa: Egyptian Inclusivity

Mohamed Tolba, Salafi Muslim (L) and Bassem Victor, Coptic Christian (R)
Mohamed Tolba, Salafi Muslim (L) and Bassem Victor, Coptic Christian (R)

From my recent article at the Middle East Institute:

Salafyo Costa were once the darlings of the media. Featured both in Egyptian outlets and foreign publications such as CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and the Huffington Post, the groundbreaking youth movement founded in April 2011 brought together ultraconservative Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood supporters, political liberals and leftists, and Coptic Christians. Together they forged a common identity promoting both the goals of the January 25 revolution and the necessity of unity in an increasingly polarized society.

They implemented this vision through fun. Salafyo Costa organized a soccer match pitting Salafis against Copts, they produced films satirizing political and religious divisions, and they went on field trips to Upper Egypt for charity campaigns. And they lived the life of street demonstrations against military rule. Throughout it all, the 120 members raised suspicions in their original communities, accustomed as these communities generally were to non-interaction with the religious or political “other.”

Salafyo Costa continued on relatively seamlessly until the Tamarod campaign against Mohamed Morsi. During the campaign, the group made the controversial decision to support the call for early elections. The liberal media heralded their courage, while Islamists hurled criticism, finding confirmation of earlier suspicions about the group. Following Morsi’s July 3 ouster, the media forgot them. And then they began to break rank.

The article continues by explaining how they came back together. From the conclusion:

“We revolted on January 25 to create our own manual, to write the rules of the game,” says Tolba. “But since February 11, every regime has imposed its own manual.”

Yet Salafyo Costa has stayed true to their ideals. Despite difficulties, growing pains, and losses, they continue the struggle to break down the barriers separating diverse groups. Maintaining a common commitment is obviously easier among dozens of members than millions of citizens, but in Salafyo Costa, Egypt is not without an example of inclusivity.

Please click here to read the rest of the article at the Middle East Institute.

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