Egypt’s Iron Wall of Shame
Posted Jan 4, 2010

Egypt’s Iron Wall of Shame

by Sheila Musaji

The American Muslim (TAM) has published over 200 articles on the terrible situation in Gaza including the most recent on the Gaza Freedom March which was attended by 1,300 international activists,  only 100 of whom were allowed by Egypt to cross the boarder into Gaza.  My friend Hedi Epstein (a holocaust survivor) is among this group, and is one of the hunger strikers.  The iron wall that Egypt is now erecting along it’s border with Gaza may be the most shameful act of betrayal yet by the government of an Arab (or Muslim) country.

As Uri Avnery has pointed out in an article attempting to understand why Egypt is building this iron wall:  “All these explanations make sense, yet the Egyptian government’s attitude is still astonishing. The Egyptian blockade of Gaza destroys the lives of 1.5 million human beings, men and women, old people and children, most of who are not Hamas activists. It is done publicly, before the eyes of hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion and a quarter Muslims. In Egypt itself, too, millions of people are ashamed of the participation of their country in the starving of fellow Arabs.”

Last week, a fatwa had been issued by some scholars at al-Azhar justifying this shameful wall:

The Center for Islamic Research (CIR) at the al-Azhar school, the world’s leading institution of Sunni Islam, issued a fatwa last week saying the construction of a steel barrier between Egypt and Gaza was in line with Islamic teachings as it was part of Egypt’s right to defend its territory.

“It is Egypt’s legitimate right to erect barriers that would stop the damage caused by the tunnels linking Rafah to Gaza,” an Azhar statement said, after it was approved by al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi.

Scholars argue"What is smuggled through those tunnels threatens the security of the country.”

Several religious scholars, mostly affiliated to al-Azhar, argued that the latest fatwa contradicts earlier ones issued by the CIR in 1965 and 1970 that called for supporting the Palestinian cause.

“This barrier will besiege our brothers in Gaza and offer them no way out of the three-year old Israeli blockade,” said the scholars’ statement of which Al Arabiya obtained a copy. “It will deprive them of food, medicine and fuel and will crush the resistance.”

Thank God,  some scholars cannot be bought.  This week, Shaikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi expressed his shock at hearing the news about the wall and said that such a wall was forbidden in Islam:

In a press statement, Dr. Al-Qaradawi said, “The construction of the steel wall, which Egypt is building along its border with Gaza, is prohibited by the Shari’a, because the intention behind it is to block all exit and entry points for Gazans, to intensify the siege around them, to humiliate them, to starve them and put pressure on them to kneel in surrender to Israel.”

He added that the people of Gaza had to resort to tunnels in order to find an alternative to the border crossing at Rafah, which is closed on most days, even for humanitarian relief convoys. “It is”, he said, “as if Egypt is telling the Palestinians, ‘Die, and let Israel live’.”

“I denied it at first and thought that the story was intended to drive a wedge between Egypt and the Palestinian people. Even Egypt denied the news.” When the story was confirmed as true he was stunned.

In response to statements by Egyptian officials that the wall is a matter of national sovereignty, Sh. Al-Qaradawi agreed that Egypt is free to preserve its sovereignty over its borders, “but it is not free to help in the killing of its Palestinian brothers and neighbours.”

He stated that it is not permissible, no matter which way it is looked at, for Egypt to construct such a wall. “It is not permissible from an Arab perspective, because of Arab Nationalism; it is not permissible from an Islamic perspective, because of Islamic brotherhood; and it is not permissible from a humanitarian perspective, because of human brotherhood. Egypt must open the Rafah border crossing for Gazans, because it is the only lung for them to breathe through. It is a religious and legal duty for Egypt not to suffocate the people of Gaza and collaborate in their murder.”

While calling on all the friends of Egypt to pressurise it to back down over this unjustifiable criminal act, Sh. Al-Qaradawi also called upon the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to intervene “to stop this tragedy”. Furthermore, he warned Egyptian officials “to fear God when it comes to their oppressed brothers and sisters,” and not do something that is “100 percent against the Palestinians, and 100 percent in the interests of Israel”.

I hope that we will see Muslims around the world contacting the Egyptian government and letting them know what they think of this wall.  If the Muslim community can be stirred up over non issues and get thousands of signatures for petitions to have Wikipedia remove artworks showing the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), then certainly this sort of real injustice should stir up a greater response.


The Iron Wall,  Uri Avnery
On Gaza Drivers, Rumours and Egypt’s Steel Wall, Ramzy Baroud
The Good out of the Misery in Gaza: Love in Action and Global Conscience, Eileen Fleming

Learn More:

Send an email to Egypt to let the Freedom Marchers enter Gaza and stop construction of another Separation Wall: