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New Texts Out Now: Beth Baron, The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood
Beth Baron, The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2014.
Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?
Beth Baron (BB): This book had a modest beginning as a history of orphans and orphan care in Egypt. Orphans have been largely ignored in historical accounts, yet having often lived on the margins, have a great deal to tell us about family and society. For a variety of reasons, Christian missionaries came to have a near monopoly on orphan care in Egypt, and so my search for sources led me to missionary archives.
There, in the missionary archives, I came across the story of Turkiyya Hasan, a teenage Muslim girl living in the Swedish Salaam Mission in Port Said who had been beaten in the summer of 1933 by the acting matron, ostensibly to force her to convert to Christianity. The story of the “torture” of Turkiyya spread from the port city to the capital, quickly becoming a national scandal with international repercussions. It came at a pivotal moment in Egypt’s semi-colonial history, with opposition to the British occupation and to the dominance of Western culture taking shape in newly formed Islamist groups. Following the trail of Turkiyya brought me to the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been founded in 1928 near Port Said in the Suez Canal city of Isma`iliyya. The earliest branches of the Brotherhood took root in the Canal Zone and Delta near foreign missions. The Port Said branch, one of the first, had been keeping a close eye on the Salaam Mission and its Home for Destitutes, disturbed by reports of attempted conversions in their midst. The beating of Turkiyya, attested to by a police medical examination, gave the local Brothers the opportunity they had been waiting for to spark the anti-missionary movement.
The book thus turned into an exploration of the intimate and frayed relationship between the Muslim Brothers and Christian missionaries. It argues that early Islamist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood developed in response to American and European evangelical missions as well as in their image. Battling for the souls of Egypt’s orphaned, abandoned, and poor children, Islamists sought to rescue Muslim children from missionary refuges and in the process created their own network of social welfare institutions. The orphan scandal in the summer of 1933 marked the beginning of the end of foreign missions in Egypt and the take-off of the Muslim Brotherhood, which gained traction through the anti-missionary movement.
J: What particular literatures does the book address?
BB: Middle Eastern historians came later than historians of other regions to the study of missionaries for a variety of reasons, though there are now some outstanding books on the topic. Rather than look at evangelicals of one or two particular missions, I focused on a specific missionary institution, the orphanage. The first part of the book shows how missionaries of different denominations—Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and others—integrated orphan care into their missions or made it the centerpiece of their work. One of the most amazing stories is that of Lillian Trasher, who spontaneously started the Asyut Orphanage, which grew to house over a thousand orphans and widows, and became affiliated with the Assemblies of God Church. The founding of that orphanage, which later was named for her, is quite distinct from the launching of the American Mission’s Fowler Orphanage in Cairo, which was the brainchild of Margaret Smith and meticulously planned over years. Not all missionaries or missions, it turns out, were alike. Nor were all modernizers. And their legacies varied, with a trail of actions that often had surprising consequences, in this case, contributing to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Orphan Scandal puts the historical literature on missionaries in dialogue with that on the Muslim Brotherhood. The book focuses on the first years of the organization, when Hasan al-Banna was a twenty-something leader of a new group, and looks at the Brothers’ concern with attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity rather than their fixation with British colonialism (though the story of the missionaries and the British occupation are linked in multiple ways). The book stresses local interactions with evangelicals in towns such as Port Said, al-Manzala, and Abu Zuwayr, in this way seeking to decenter the focus on Cairo in the history of the Muslim Brotherhood (and in Egyptian history in general). Mapping the encounters of specific Brotherhood branches with specific Protestant missions—such as the Egypt General Mission, the American Mission, the Swedish Salaam Mission, and others—shows how the Brothers adapted the weapons of missionaries, fighting schools with schools, workshops with factories, and orphanages with refuges in skirmishes that were quite intense.
J: How does this book connect to and/or depart from your previous research?
BB: My first book, The Women’s Awakening in Egypt: Culture, Society, and the Press (1994), examines the emergence of a vibrant female literary culture in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Egypt. Tracing the making of the women’s press from production to consumption, it then follows the lively discussions carried out on its pages on rights, family relations, education, and work. At the time that I conducted research for The Women’s Awakening, the conventional thinking was that men had dominated the movement for women’s rights. I set out to demonstrate that female intellectuals had created a vital forum for debating reforms, using the press and newly formed associations to advocate for change. Many of the intellectuals who spearheaded the women’s press had attended missionary schools, but I did not pursue that thread in the book. In subsequent studies, I returned to the women’s press, mining it as a source of social and political history, and returned to the missionaries in this study, to examine their legacy more closely.
My second book, Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics (2005), explores the relationship between women’s activism and gendered images. The first part of the book looks at the use of family rhetoric, national honor, iconography, and photography to depict Egypt metaphorically and visually as a woman. The second part considers the memories and actions of female nationalists, including secularists such as Safiyya Zaghlul (“Mother of the Egyptians”) as well as Islamists such as Labiba Ahmad (“al-Hajja”). In the book I argue that while women inspired, shaped, and appropriated nationalist images, they were barred from the political stage and marginalized in the collective memory. I came away from writing Egypt as a Woman with the sense that many of the nationalists upon whom I had focused eventually became disenchanted with partisan politics and put their passion into social advocacy. (I also learned that it was not enough for women to be activists, but that they also needed to write gendered histories to have their stories remembered.)
After finishing Egypt as a Woman, I began to look at social politics, which led me to the issue of orphans and orphan care. There are other links between Egypt as a Woman and The Orphan Scandal, though they only became obvious later on. For example, Egypt as a Woman ends with the chapter on Labiba Ahmad, who had promoted Hasan al-Banna in her journal al-Nahda al-Nisa’iyya and had been the first president of women’s branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. Labiba makes a cameo appearance in The Orphan Scandal, for in the summer of 1933 and even earlier, she warned Egyptians about sending their daughters and sons to missionary institutions.
But The Orphan Scandal also departs from previous work.
My last book focused on nationalism, and the first was written in a nationalist frame. Indeed, when Syrian and Lebanese women writers didn’t quite fit in the frame, I was not sure what to do with them. At the time, I had the sense that the only “authentic” stories one could tell were those that centered on Egypt and Egyptians, and others who came into or left the frame were not relevant. The Orphan Scandal takes a transnational approach, seeing the stories of the contact between foreigners and locals as inherently interesting, and seeing the “local” as complex and fluid.
Women and girls have a dominant role in the book—the majority of foreign missionaries in Egypt were single women and the main protagonist in the book is a young Egyptian girl—but the gender analysis is more implicit than explicit in The Orphan Scandal as compared with previous books. This is not so much a moving beyond gender history as seeing the need for gender analysis everywhere, including in the early years of the Islamist movement, and looking for it in daily and local interactions.
Something else that is new in this book is my experimentation with writing style. In the prologue, rather than give a definitive historical account of the beating of Turkiyya and its aftermath, I relate the story through the eyes of a number of actors who were involved. This is not only a literary device, but an attempt to show how points of view matter and how an array of actors can frame events in fundamentally different ways.
J: Who do you hope will read this book, and what sort of impact would you like it to have?
BB: In experimenting with writing style and being attentive to narrative flow, I tried to make The Orphan Scandal accessible to a wide variety of informed readers both inside and outside academia. In writing a transnational story, I imagined that specialists on the Middle East as well as those interested in US and European history, and diplomatic history in particular, might be attracted to the work. Most of all, I really hoped that readers would find the story at the book’s core, Turkiyya’s tale, a compelling one.
I started researching the book as American military interventions in the Middle East were becoming increasingly reckless. At the time, it was clear that most Americans had little sense of the history of US engagement with the region or its depth—Americans had landed on Middle Eastern shores a century before the end of World War II, which is when many accounts pick up the story of American involvement in the region. In looking at Protestant missionaries in Egypt, I was amazed how militaristic the language that they used had been: they came to “occupy” towns and cities, and this is in part how they were remembered. I wanted to show that US interventions had a long history, that missionaries were an important part of that history, and that their footprint was deep. Evangelicals were not nearly as benevolent as some of the literature had suggested, bequeathing only schools and hospitals when they left. Although they had come with “the best of intentions,” they had generated “unintended consequences,” contributing to the rise, spread, and shape of the Islamist movement.
The book was also meant to be a warning to those who would try to “save” peoples of the Middle East, most recently through democratizing, that saving has been tried before—first through Christianizing and then through modernizing—and that such efforts often gave rise to backlashes. This is not to say that the Muslim Brotherhood arose only out of the encounter with missionaries. That, of course, is too reductive. But the encounter did play a role, and in many ways, this story keeps repeating itself: US interventions in Afghanistan helped give rise to the Taliban, and in Iraq to ISIS.
During the writing of this book, the Brothers moved from the periphery of Egyptian politics to the center, then were displaced in a coup, branded by the new regime as terrorists, and forced underground. The Egyptian regime and many American pundits collapse all Islamists into one and paint them with broad brushstrokes. I would like readers to come away from The Orphan Scandal with greater insight into what motivated the Muslim Brothers in their early years, in particular their desire to protect vulnerable children from conversion, and to distinguish between the strategies and tactics of different groups.
J: What other projects are you working on now?
BB: I have just started a new project on the history of health and disease in Egypt from the 1880s to the 1950s. My intention is to look at a cluster of diseases, including bilharzia, syphilis, trachoma, and typhus, which wreaked havoc with public health, and to examine the relationship between environmental change and illness. At the same time, I am interested in probing child mortality and maternal health as well as finding traces of alternative medical systems, ones which predated the introduction of modern/Western biomedicine or co-existed with it, and that integrated understandings of the interaction between the mind and body.
Among the sources I plan to tap for this study are the records of missionary doctors, so the missionaries may be along for another ride. And I will look for records of Muslim Brotherhood physicians. How, I wonder, did religious outlooks impact the practice of medicine in this period? Did foreign and local, religious and secular, physicians practice medicine in the same way? And how were diseases and care gendered?
J: How might focusing on the history of Christian missionaries affect or change our contemporary understanding of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic organizations in Egypt?
BB: Most observers assume that the Muslim Brotherhood had little connection to the West and that it arose on its own following a unique Islamic trajectory. But the Muslim Brotherhood has a great resemblance to the Protestant missions that it mimicked in its early years and has their DNA. It deployed its own missionaries in the countryside and cities to inform and reform Muslims; attracted supporters through the provision of social welfare; and sought members from educated classes, putting recruits through a rigorous selection and training process. Other Islamic organizations that grew out of the Brotherhood or broke off from it have used a similar template. Seeing the Muslim Brotherhood and other like-minded Islamic organizations in this light shows that characteristics that are ascribed to Islam have little to do with religion and more to do with ambitions to influence reform and build a following. Like missionaries, the Muslim Brothers would never claim that they would force anyone to convert or follow certain practices, although they would certainly try to persuade them to comply with their interpretations. Those Islamic groups that have turned to force and become militarized to overturn states or create their own have different models and agendas.
J: You mention the state. What role did the Egyptian state have in the encounter between Christian missionaries and the Muslim Brotherhood?
BB: This is a very good question. First, it is important to understand the nature of the Egyptian state in this period. In the 1920s and 1930s, Egypt was semi-colonized, which meant that British advisers still shadowed Egyptian ministers, intervening when British interests were at stake; British experts still proved influential in a variety of different departments; and the British army still had a strong military presence. Beyond the occupation, Egyptian officials were further constrained in their actions by the Capitulatory regime, under which foreigners enjoyed special privileges. So the state protected foreign missionaries, who provided critical social services that the state could not or would not provide, particularly in areas such as girls’ education and orphan care.
But the orphan scandal of 1933 changed the equation. News of the beating of Turkiyya Hasan generated a public outcry, which led to the creation of the League for the Defense of Islam by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups. The league drew on the experience that the Brotherhood had in dealing with evangelicals and at the same time protected the organization from the retribution of the state. As the anti-missionary movement gained momentum, the semi-colonial state saw that it was losing legitimacy. Instead of concentrating on reining in the foreign missionaries, officials moved to suppress the league, which was disbanded shortly thereafter. The Brotherhood survived, remaining below the radar of British and Egyptian officials until later in the decade, when they began to take more careful note of the organization.
Another outcome of the scandal was increased sectarianism. The public had called for the removal of Muslim children from missionary orphanages, and so state officials had begun to extract them. Yet rather than house these Muslim children in private Islamic or other institutions, which were limited in any case, the ministry of interior began to expand its own refuges and build new ones, seeing this an opportunity to extend its own mission. This was an important moment in the building of the Egyptian welfare state, but the welfare state did not serve all its citizens equally. By catering its services to the majority population and leaving the minorities to the care of missionaries, the state fostered sectarianism.
Excerpts from The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood
From “Prologue: The Turkiyya Hasan Affair”
The story of the Turkiyya Hasan Affair is told here from the perspectives of ten characters who were directly involved. The aim is to give insight into the diverging ways participants experienced, remembered, witnessed, or heard about the beating of Turkiyya Hasan in the Swedish Salaam Mission on the morning of 7 June 1933, and its aftermath. The narratives will revisit some of the same terrain, retracing steps and recounting conversations, to get at the heart of this explosive encounter between orphans, missionaries, Muslims, and officials of the semi-colonial state. An attempt has been made to give the points of view of all the major characters involved in the affair, but the Swiss missionary who caned Turkiyya is surprisingly silent. Alzire Richoz seemed to leave little record of her voice, only bruises on the body of a teenage girl.
At the Eye of the Storm: Turkiyya Hasan
Turkiyya al-Sayyid Hasan Yusuf remembered her arrival at the Swedish Salaam Mission in Port Said in a part of the city known as “Arab town” at the age of nine or ten. Her father had died (or vanished), her mother had been unable to care for her, and an older sister and brother were not able to raise her. Upon her entry, the Finnish matron Anna Eklund told her, “Now you are our daughter in God,” and gave her a doll and chocolate, which she enjoyed, and images of a strange man. She realized it wasn’t Muhammad, for Muslims did not depict their prophet. Who was it? Only later did she learn that the images were of the man the missionaries called Jesus Christ.
During the school year, Turkiyya studied with upwards of four hundred other day students in the mission girls’ school. At night, the day students returned to their homes and parents; she stayed with the twenty or so female boarders at the mission, finding some distractions there. Encouraged by the Swedish founder of the mission, Maria Ericsson, she tried to teach the stream of adult visitors who came to visit how to speak some words of her native tongue. She made them repeat the Arabic words just as her teachers made her repeat words in the English language that they taught in the school.
As the months grew into years, Turkiyya realized that living in the home came at a price: pressure to accept Jesus. She looked up to an older Muslim girl named Fathiyya, who clung to her faith in spite of extreme measures to convert her like placing a Qur’an in the girls’ bathroom to make the Muslim girls boarding in the home ashamed of their religion. Turkiyya was happy to help Fathiyya get out of what she called “this desolate prison” in the spring of 1931. One night, Turkiyya kept watch while Fathiyya escaped, taking sanctuary in a local police station.
Turkiyya missed the older girl and wished she could tell her about the disturbing letter she had received from Maria Ericsson over a year later: “My dear Turkya, will you be among those who are washed in the BLOOD of the LAMB?” the letter dated 8 September 1932, from Flint, Michigan, asked. “Are you ready when the Lord your Saviour comes? He is coming soon.” Miss Ericsson then warned her, “Do not fight against Him any longer. Do not try to silence His voice speaking in your heart. The dear Lord is coming back very, very soon, and oh, what cries of agony there will be from all who rejected HIM….For then the great day of HIS wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?...Even the mighty kings on earth shall not know how to escape from His judgment.” Turkiyya hid this intimidating letter and another from Finland, hoping to show them to someone, anyone who could help, as proof that the missionaries were frightening the Muslim girls in the home into becoming Christians.
The pressure on Turkiyya increased until her last Sunday at the home, when the acting principal, Miss Marshall, gathered the girls and asked for a sign from those “who want to be washed by the blood of Christ.” Conversion appealed to some of her classmates, but it did not appeal to Turkiyya, so she kept quiet. Miss Marshall then told her privately to get “ready to travel to Zaytun,” where the British Egypt General Mission had a home for female Muslim converts, “for it is time to wash you with the blood of Jesus, and we want to baptize you next Sunday.” Turkiyya said that she was a Muslim and did not want to travel to Zaytun to be baptized. At that, Miss Marshall slapped her across her face. Turkiyya ran out of the dining hall, refusing to eat with the missionaries that day or on Monday or Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Turkiyya was pulled aside by Miss Richoz and was forced to listen to the missionary speak about Jesus for a quarter of an hour. Having had enough, Turkiyya ran up to the building roof. “Oh God, I am a Muslim,” she shouted out, calling for salvation from “these tyrannical people.” She knew Richoz, who had followed her up, had heard her and saw that the American missionary John Afman, who headed the Salaam Mission boys’ school, was there on the roof as well. She sat down, preoccupied and angry, and when Afman left, she refused to rise. When Miss Richoz asked her why she hadn’t risen, she replied, “I forgot.” Richoz admonished Turkiyya for her bad manners, to which Turkiyya retorted: “These are the manners that I learned here at this school.”
Turkiyya was surprised by the intensity of Miss Richoz’s reaction and unprepared. First the missionary attacked her with a sharp pen, and when she screamed out in pain, Miss Richoz dragged her inside a sitting room on the roof and closed the door. Richoz then began hitting her with both hands on her head and face, telling her not to scream like a Muslim, “because we are not Muslims here.” The missionary next picked up a cane and beat Turkiyya with it in a frenzy, and then threw Turkiyya down on a sofa, sat on her back, covered her mouth with her hand to muffle her screams, and continued to beat her. With great effort Turkiyya lifted herself off the couch to ask, “Are you trying to kill me?” to which Miss Richoz replied, “I won’t kill you, but I will kill the devil that keeps you from Jesus.” When Turkiyya had finally stopped screaming, Richoz told her she believed she had been chosen by Jesus, to which Turkiyya replied that she wasn’t chosen, that she was a Muslim from a Muslim family. She fled, retreating into the room that she shared with other girls, and fell into a deep sleep from exhaustion.
The next day, Thursday, Turkiyya’s nephew came by the mission to ask after her. She told him to tell her sister Amina to come quickly, because they wanted to take her away the following day. When her sister came, Turkiyya showed her the marks on her body from the beating and cried. Angered, Amina went to talk to Miss Marshall and Miss Richoz, but they refused to let her take Turkiyya out of the orphanage. They did give her Turkiyya’s birth certificate, which they had wanted to keep in order to baptize the girl. Turkiyya then asked her sister to find someone, anyone, who could get her out of the orphanage, for she was worried that the next morning she would be forced to leave for Zaytun.
That night her brother appeared to ask for her release. Still, the missionaries refused to let her go. Only when her sister and brother-in-law showed up with a Port Said police officer who said he had orders to have Turkiyya released into his custody did they relent. On her way out, Turkiyya grabbed a bag containing the letters from Maria Ericsson and other missionaries. At the police station, she told the story of Richoz beating her to make her accept Christianity and showed the medical examiner the cuts and bruises on her arms and legs, and the gouge close to the spine that really hurt. She listened as he said that she was going to be put under observation at the hospital for a few days.
Instead of undergoing a baptism in Zaytun that Sunday, as the missionaries had planned, Turkiyya appeared before the Parquet. She told the officials from the Port Said office of the Department of Prosecution in the Ministry of Justice investigating the case that the matron had beaten her for refusing to embrace Christianity. The prosecutors then cross-examined her on statements they had already taken from Richoz and Marshall that she had been ill-behaved and impolite. Turkiyya admitted that she had made a scornful remark to the matron, yet she insisted that the missionary’s desire to convert her was the reason for the beating. As evidence she pointed to four other Muslim girls who had been converted at the school—half of the eight who lived in the home. As further proof of the pressure brought to bear on her, she pointed to the letters she had slipped into her bag when she left the home.
Overnight Turkiyya’s life changed, as she was catapulted from anonymity in the orphanage to the public limelight. Her picture at the public prosecutor’s office appeared prominently on the front pages of Egypt’s largest daily newspaper, al-Ahram, as well as on page one of al-Jihad. Other newspapers—al-Balagh, Kawkab al-Sharq, and al-Siyasa—carried stories about her ordeal.
“All of you must have heard of the sad incidents which the missionaries commit behind a veil,” she told a crowd of some sixty people gathered at the Port Said home of a local merchant, Muhammad Effendi Sarhan, a week after the beating. “It is not my intention to relate to you any of these incidents as you have already read a great deal about them in the newspapers.” Rather, she said, “by standing before you tonight, I mean to warn you against the grave danger menacing our sacred religion as a result of leaving Muslim boys and girls in these dangerous schools.” Seeking to help those she had left behind in the Swedish Salaam Mission, Turkiyya exhorted her audience: “If you knew the fate which would inevitably befall these boys and girls if you allow them to remain in these schools, you would sacrifice money and soul to rescue them from the certainty of becoming infidels.”
Turkiyya continued, “The events of today and yesterday have proven that there are Muslims who will not accept seeing their religion insulted.” Imploring listeners to do “everything in your power, promptly and firmly, to establish an orphanage in which these tortured victims can seek refuge,” she stressed that the children “are looking forward to your efforts with hearts full of hope.” Turkiyya’s words sparked attendees to donate three hundred pounds toward a new orphanage, and her new guardian, Dr. Muhammad Sulayman, helped to organize the effort. She was pleased that those friends she had left behind in the orphanage would not be forgotten.
Basking in her newfound freedom, Turkiyya was now being looked after by a concerned circle of supporters who were impressed by her standing up to the missionaries. But there were others who saw the affair through completely different lenses.
The Man behind the Mystery: Dr. Muhammad Sulayman
Dr. Muhammad Sulayman did not care about the rumors making the consular and missionary rounds about him and his German ex-wife. His Islamic activism did not grow out of malice toward her but rather out of a concern for young, vulnerable orphans like Nazla and Turkiyya. He was thrilled to work with members of the Port Said branch of the Muslim Brotherhood to try to rescue such girls from the Swedish Salaam Mission. The Brotherhood branch in Port Said with which he had become affiliated had been started by a young native son—Ahmad Effendi al-Misri—after he returned from a sojourn in Isma‘iliyya, where Hasan al-Banna, the general guide, had launched the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. The Brotherhood promised to rejuvenate Islam and fight the British, causes the doctor endorsed. Its branch office sat right across the street from the Ophthalmology Hospital where he worked.
Lately the Muslim Brotherhood had taken a keen interest in combating evangelical activities, which was important to Dr. Sulayman given the inroads missionaries had made in Port Said. There had been a whirlwind of letters, visiting delegations sent by the general guide, and discussions within the organization. A Muslim Brotherhood branch in nearby al-Manzala had alerted the Brothers in Port Said of the impending conversions of girls from Port Said in Swedish Salaam Mission institutions. The Brothers in Port Said had watched the mission closely for months, but even when a girl who was an acquaintance of Turkiyya asked Dr. Sulayman for assistance in leaving, he could not extricate her from “that hellish place,” for she had no family to claim her, and state officials would not intercede on her behalf. He also had had no luck thus far in rescuing Nazla from the clutches of the missionaries, in spite of his ongoing attempts to work with her mother and grandfather to return her to the fold of Islam.
But the luck of Dr. Sulayman and the Islamic activists of Port Said had turned, for they found the perfect heroine in Turkiyya. On Monday, 12 June, five days after her caning, Dr. Sulayman joined the delegation that met with the governor of Port Said, giving him a petition against the mission, and it sent one to the king. On Wednesday, 14 June, he attended a gathering in the home of Muhammad Sarhan, where Turkiyya gave a moving talk. He was elected to the executive committee of the Jam‘iyyat al-Nahda al-Islamiyya (Society of Islamic Awakening), which had been formed to rescue poor Muslim boys and girls from missionaries by establishing an orphanage. Muhammad Mustafa Tira, who represented the Muslim Brotherhood branch of Port Said, was also at the meeting. On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood convened their first conference in Isma‘iliyya, dedicating it to a discussion of the threat of missionaries to Islam and Muslims.
The whirlwind of activities undertaken to publicize the beating of Turkiyya and turn her into a symbol for the movement to fight missionaries continued. Dr. Sulayman headed the delegation that took Turkiyya to Cairo the following week, paying the costs with Muhammad Sarhan. He escorted her to the launching of the League for the Defense of Islam, a coalition that had come together to combat conversion and that included members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and was elected to the league’s higher committee. He took Turkiyya on a circuit of press interviews, during which he became a subject of interest as well, appearing in a photograph with Turkiyya and members of the staff of al-Balagh.
A reporter at the weekly al-Fath praised him for gaining knowledge of what happened to Turkiyya and having the merit “to lift the curtain” on the brutality committed by male and female criminals under the name of “peace” at the Salaam School. With his newfound fame, Dr. Sulayman gained access to national luminaries. He and Muhammad Sarhan stopped by the House of the Nation for a meeting with Mustafa al-Nahhas Pasha, head of the Wafd Party. Afterward, they made a call at the Sa‘dist Party Club to visit party leader Mahmud al-Nuqrashi Pasha. Although the Shaykh al-Azhar refused to give them an audience, they learned from contacts that King Fu’ad sympathized with their fight against Christian conversion. Others supported their efforts and donated funds to build a new orphanage.
Upon his return from Cairo, Dr. Sulayman faced questioning by the commander of the Port Said police, Ablitt, whose special branch of the Suez Canal police kept him under close surveillance. Still, he continued his activism, for he wasn’t going to let the police stop his efforts. Keeping up his pressure on the Swedish Salaam Mission, he pushed for information on the whereabouts of orphans such as Nafisa, the friend of Turkiyya who had given testimony to the Parquet and seemed to have disappeared. He developed international contacts, welcoming an Indian activist into his home to discuss strategies for fighting missionaries. He tried to drive members of the Evangelical Church of Port Said out of town, arranging for their transfer from government jobs. And when young men gathered to start a local chapter of the Young Men’s Muslim Association, he was elected president. The “Mission case” may have been causing him to lose clients, as Ablitt asserted, but it was well worth it. For him and his Islamist associates, the beating of Turkiyya presented an opportunity.
[Excerpted from The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, by Beth Baron. (c) 2014 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Jr. University. All rights reserved. Published by Stanford University Press in hardcover, paperback and digital formats. For more information, or to purchase this book, click here.]
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