By Cam McGrath, Inter Press Service News
CAIRO, Oct 19 (IPS) – Self-appointed guardians of public morality are invoking an ancient instrument of Islamic jurisprudence against those whose ideas they deem immoral or heretical – or simply to gain fame.
“We are concerned about the huge rise in the number of hisba cases in recent years,” says Gamal Eid, executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
Hisba is a lawsuit filed by an individual who volunteers to defend society from anyone whose words or deeds he considers harmful to Islam. Introduced to Egypt in the eighth century, this obscure legal instrument empowers Muslims to hold their fellow citizens, and even the state, accountable for upholding religious virtue.