Fire and brimstone sermons by radical Islamic preachers recorded on audiocassettes are seen as a threat to the lives of leading Arab entertainers, writers and secular intellectuals.
The cassettes have been on sale for as little as $1 per tape at kiosks near fundamentalist mosques in Cairo. Some of the tapes reportedly were smuggled into Egypt from Saudi Arabia.
Among major Arab personalities singled out for cassette pulpit-bashing are actor Adel Iman, Egypt’s No. 1 cinema box office draw and an outspoken secular political activist; noted Egyptian film director Youssef Shaheen; and feminist writer Nawal Saadawi, most of whose books have been translated into English.
The tapes also branded Egyptian femme entertainers-singers, actresses and belly-dancers-as “whores.”
Police swoops against the tape sales venues started in the weeks following an assassination attempt against Egyptian Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz-many of whose novels have been turned into hit Arabic-lingo films. The author was found to figure high on the list of those under cassette attack. Mahfouz was stabbed in the neck near his Cairo home by an alleged Islamic militant on Oct. 14.
While the cassette sermons do not directly sanction the murder of those under attack, their language comes perilously close to doing so.
For example, on one tape a fundamentalist preacher says their works “are enough to boil the blood of any true Moslem who cares for his religion.”
Not a death threat per se, but tantamount to one, because the words in Arabic are highly inflammatory-rather like U.S. pro-life groups blasting abortion-performing doctors as “serial killers.”
Actor Iman, for one, apparently isn’t taking the threats lightly. He reportedly has hired private bodyguards and has been given additional security by the Interior Ministry.
The 86-year-old Mahfouz, on the other hand, refused offers of police protection prior to the attempt on his life. The author said he did not want police guards because they would interfere with his regular routine of visiting favorite coffeehouses and holding weekly public literary seminars.