Egyptians have voiced anger after Mohammed Morsi appointed an Islamist as provincial governor, who is linked to a deadly terrorist attack. Adel el-Khayat said he would not allow politics to influence his decisions.
Politicians, residents and activists in the Luxor province said they plan to seal off the office of the governor to prevent Adel el-Khayat from entering. Members of the tourism industry worry about the new governor's potential impact on tourism: The Islamist hard-liner comes from Gamaa Islamiya, a group that claimed responsibility for one of Egypt's bloodiest massacres.
"Is it unimaginable that those who plotted, participated or played any role in the massacre of Luxor, become the rulers even if they renounced and repented it," said Tharwat Agamy, the head of Luxor's Tourism Chamber.
Gamaa Islamiya waged a bloody insurgency against the Egyptian government in the 1990s, attacking police, Copts and tourists. In 1997, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on visitors to Luxor's 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple (pictured), killing 58 in a stabbing spree and spray of gunfire. More than 1,200 people total died in the campaign of violence led by Gamaa and another militant group, Islamic Jihad.
'Performance and skills'
Both groups renounced violence in the 2000s during a crackdown by the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, overthrown in a less-bloody revolution in 2011. Since his removal, both groups have launched political parties. The Gamaa allies with current Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
"I am honored to belong to the Islamist current, but now as a governor I am in the service of the nation," el-Khayat wrote to the Associated Press news agency. "It is not fair to judge someone just because of affiliation but by evaluating their work, performance and skills."
El-Khayat said Gamaa hadn't ordered the attack and condemned it afterward. However, the group claimed responsibility for the attack at the time and, two years later, one of its leaders threatened to repeat it.
The governor's hard-line ideology also does bodes poorly for a tourist region. His group calls for Shariah law: Islamic dress code for women, alcohol bans, preventing genders from mixing. Tourism has already dropped in the unrest that has followed Mubarak's overthrow, and in Luxor, the main city in a province of about 1 million people, tourism drives the economy.
Visitor numbers to Egypt fell to 9.8 million in 2011 from 14.7 million the year before, and revenues dropped 30 percent to $8.8 billion (6.6 billion euros). Last year, visitors got back to just over 10 million, but they concentrated at beach resorts rather than in Luxor's Nile Valley.
mkg/rg (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)