People didn’t accept the idea that Salafi guys could sit and drink in Costa Coffee. Everybody was unfriendly. It’s because they have a perception that Salafis don’t go for coffee in such places. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa
Through our Facebook page and our videos we are trying to tell them: Hear from us rather not about us. — Ahmed Samir, co-founder of the Facebook group
Do you guys sit in Costa? People would look at us in bafflement because they had a perception that Salafis don’t drink coffee in such places. It’s what I call visual abuse. It’s sad but funny. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa
Costa Salafists are quite literally, Salafists who meet in Costa coffee shops.
The Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt.
If you watched closely, as I did, you would have seen people on the streets, in Tahrir Square, many ages, but many young people, many young females, young females who were treated as equals, small groups forming, engaging in articulate, animated, but above all informed discussion and debate.
Move forward, the toppling of dictators, then elections.
All then seemed to have been lost, in Tunisia what could be called a soft Muslim party took power, in Egypt a harder Muslim Party the Muslim Brotherhood took power and behind them the hard line Salafists.
It seemed as though all had been lost, lives sacrificed for nothing. But all may not be as it seems from a superficial glance.
To topple a dictator is to question power. Power is usually toppled at the top, to be replaced by the same for example as we see in Animal Farm.
Tahrir Square was grass roots, question from the bottom. Once that genie is out of the bottle it is impossible to squeeze back in. Something Putin need to understand with his imprisonment of Pussy Riot and clampdown on opposition.
Girls who were not allowed out of the house, took to the streets. They now question. They are no longer prisoners in their own house.
Students question their teachers. Bribes are no longer paid to policemen.
We take reading for granted. If you cannot tread, how can you travel around, how do you know which street to find, how can you catch a bus if you cannot read the number?
The Taliban tried to silence Malawa, they failed.
The first word of the Koran is read.
Costa Salafists are so named because they quite literally meet in Costa coffee shops. A pity they cannot find local indie coffee shops in which to meet.
Costa Salafists would appear to be an oxymoron. Are Salafists not hard line intolerant bigots and Islamic fundamentalists, is not Costa a Western imposed coffee chain, the last place Salafists would meet? It is exactly because of that perception why they meet in Costa coffee shops. They even count Coptic Christians among their core supporters.
When I met Mohammed Tolba, the founder of this initiative, many of my own assumptions of Salafis were fundamentally challenged; to be frank, I didn’t realize Salafis could be so light-hearted and tolerant. Mohammed emphasised some basic struggles that the group faces: reminding themselves and other Salafis that they do not have an absolute monopoly on religious truth, and encouraging Salafis to have regular and meaningful interactions with other Egyptians rather than isolating themselves as they have for many years (which in part was a result of the discrimination they faced under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak).
They believe in the authority of the Koran, but in a living interpretation of the Koran, an interpretation that your heart tells you is correct.
The Prophet warned, only heed a fatwa if your heart tells you it is correct.
The Old Testament was never meant to be written down as to do so would be to set it in stone. It was a living document that was interpreted to suit the present day. Later prophets constantly reinterpreted that which went before.
During Occupy St Paul’s, there often seemed as many clergy as there were occupiers at St Paul’s in-the-Camp. They were going back to original teachings of Jesus.
A cultural shift is taking part. At Occupy it was to question what was happening, the way our economy and financial systems function. In Greece and Spain that shift is of necessity as there are no jobs or at least no jobs in the formal economy.
When Super Storm Sandy struck New York, Mitt Romney saw it as a photo opportunity. Occupy New York got their hands dirty, Occupy Sandy was born, they were out helping people, feeding people.
People who were in Tahrir Square took their inspiration from Occupy, Occupy took their inspiration from Tahrir Square. Cross fertilisation.
The cultural shift that is taking place is being networked.
The Arab Spring was organised through social media. The Costa Salafists are no exception, making extensive use of Facebook.
- Green Shoots from the Arab Spring
- Salafyo Costa, Salafi Group, Works to Counter Intolerance
- Salafyo Costa aims to put a new face on fundamentalism
- Salafism and coffee
- PODCAST Interview: Egyptian Filmmaker, Karim El-Shenawy, on His New Film “Salafi”
- Young Egyptians use Facebook, coffee to bring religions together