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Islam Online in crisis as administration threatens to fire journalists
Islam Online in crisis as administration threatens to fire journalists
Some 250 employees of the Arabic-English news website Islam Online stood in protest this afternoon in Cairo, demanding their voices be heard by the new administration.
Monday, March 15,2010 18:37
by Joseph Mayton BM&Ikhwanweb
CAIRO: Some 250 employees of the Arabic-English news website Islam Online stood in protest this afternoon in Cairo, demanding their voices be heard by the new administration. When the Egyptian state security forces were called in, the employees, who had originally planned only a 15 minute strike, decided to move to the next level and an open-ended sit-in was announced.

Now, as the day wears on, updates from the embattled employees have made their way across the activist community, which has thrown their support behind the journalists.

The journalists and colleagues were perched on the steps of their office as police arrived to make an already tense situation more stressful. But the blogging community stepped up its coverage of the situation and continues as Bikya Masr publishes this article.

According to Atef Abdel-Ghany, who runs the website’s development committee, said the new board has informed the employees that come March 31, “more than 250 of the journalists will be let go.” Islam Online currently employs more than 350 people.

According to the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo the board had met with the worker only days earlier “to listen to their demands and questions with promises from Ibrahim Al Ansari, [Islam Online[ Vice-President, to meet these demands, but according to the sources, this meeting turned out to be a kind of stalling and wasting time in preparation to fire the workers.”

The law center’s sources added that the workers “refused to work with the committee and went into an open strike, threatening to go into a full strike inside the building if the Qatari side insisted on their situation of liquidating the branch and moving it to Doha.”

Prominent Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawy, who is technically the owner of Islam Online, has been out of touch during the ordeal. Employees attempted to get in touch with him, but to no avail. HMLC said that the sheikh “had promised the workers all of their rights and the continuation of the Cairo branch or he would resign, but it seems the Qatari side has taken advantage of Qaradawy’s health and his trip to Saudi Arabia.”

The law center said this was an attempt to take advantage of the situation while he is away.

This left the Egyptian blogosphere up in arms over the development, which has been updating the situation constantly. According to reports, the new administration wants a more “conservative approach” to what has long been considered one of the few voices for moderate Islamic perspectives online in both English and Arabic.

The employees have said the new administration consists of conservative Salafist and Wahhabi – known for their conservative approach to Islam – Muslims who want to remove at least three sections from the website. All three sections are currently run by Amr el-Shobaky and include “Islamyoon,” “Madarik” and “Youth.”

The journalists argue this is an effort to push a new “conservative agenda” that runs counter to the traditional Islam Online effort of bring people together.

The move on the moderate Islam Online is likely to spur the already tense relationship between moderate Muslims and the conservatives, who have been attempting to buttress their support in Egypt for the past few years. Those from the Gulf have been pushing their agenda in Egypt for years, but only recently has their voice become stronger and supporters flocking to their ranks, says Gamal al-Banna, an elderly Islamic scholar and liberal thinker.

“We have for far too long allowed the conservatives to come into Egypt and have done nothing about it,” he began. “It is time to speak out for what Egyptians want.”

tags: Qatar / Doha / Qaradawi / Saudi Arabia / Salafi / Islamonline / Islamic Websites
Posted in Human Rights , Islam Online Crises  
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