An engineering student is killed for walking with his fiancee by men reportedly linked to a group called the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Women are harassed for not wearing veils, owners of liquor stores say they’re being threatened, and fundamentalists are calling for sex segregation on buses and in workplaces.
Egypt’s recent election of an Islamist president has rekindled a long-suppressed display of public piousness that has aroused both “moral vigilantism” and personal acts of faith, such as demands that police officers and flight attendants be allowed to grow beards. Scattered incidents of violence and intimidation do not appear to have been organized, but they represent a disturbing trend in Egypt’s transition to democracy.
Rising religious fervor is the latest echo in the battle between moderate and ultraconservative Islamists to reshape society after the overthrow of autocrats across the Middle East and North Africa. It is particularly pointed in Egypt, where Morsi must appease a powerful, secular military and dominant Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafi parties.