Published: 09:47 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 08 June 2011
Islamic groups join forces to contest Egyptian elections
Country/Region: Egypt, Middle East and North Africa
Following the fall of the Mubarak regime, extreme Islamist forces are gaining power and influence in Egypt.
|"god’s words must rule and Islam must be in the hearts of the citizens"
Jama'a al-Islamiyya spokesman
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has joined forces with a radical Salafist group to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections in an ominous move for the country’s Christian community.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the leading Islamic party in Egypt, has formed a political alliance with Jama’a al-Islamiyya, a jihadi group which was behind a number of terrorist attacks in the 1990s but has recently renounced violence, though not its radical creed. The two groups announced that they will form a coalition to contest September’s parliamentary elections in order to combat secular forces in the country.
Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said, “The Islamic movements are uniting, despite their different ideologies, because they feel Islam is threatened.” And Jama'a al-Islamiyya spokesman Osama Hafez underlined the parties’ commitment to upholding the place of Islam in Egyptian society: “Allah’s words must rule and Islam must be in the hearts of the citizens”.
Amr al-Shobky, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that this religious cooperation reflected an imbalanced political scale, tilted towards the Islamic movements.
Another extremist Islamist movement in Egypt is composed of Salafist groups. Salafism is an ultra-conservative strict and puritanical version of Islam related to Wahhabism, the official state creed of Saudi Arabia. Some followers of Salafism known as Salafi-jihadis include Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda figures who espouse and practise violent jihad against those considered infidels. Other Salafis are non-violent but all espouse the aim of imposing their strict version of Sharia on the state.
Despite the Salafi doctrine of non-involvement in democracy and elections, some Salafists have formed a political party, Al Nour, which means “light”. The party says Christians would be given “the right to refer to their religion” but “the higher reference will be for Islamic sharia”.
Salafist attacks on Christians
These are ominous developments for Egypt’s Christians, who have come under attack at the hands of Salafists in a number of high-profile incidents since the revolution. Salafists were behind assaults on two churches and homes in Imbaba district, Cairo, in which 12 people were killed and scores injured last month. And in April, Salafists rallied against the appointment of a Christian governor in Qena, Upper Egypt. Some threatened to kill Emad Mikhail if he assumed office; he was suspended for three months by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in a bid to quell the unrest.
Abd Al-Azim, a Jama'a al-Islamiyya leader in Alexandria, sent this message to Egypt’s Christians following a barrage of attacks against them:
If the Christians want safety they should submit to the rule of Allah and be confident that the Islamic sharia will protect them.
In other worrying developments, the group recently advocated the formation of a Saudi-style modesty police “to arrest those who commit immoral acts”. Jama'a al-Islamiyya has been linked to Al-Qaeda, and its spiritual leader Omar Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Muslim Brotherhood marches on
In its quest for power, the Muslim Brotherhood is targeting illiterate people - who comprise a large proportion of Egypt's population - outside the main cities. They threaten them that if they do not vote for the Muslim Brotherhood they will not go to heaven, and that voting against the Brotherhood will result in the country being governed by the infidel.
The Muslim Brotherhood is also establishing strong ties with the army, which currently runs the country, taking on a security role similar to that of Hizbollah in Lebanon. They are asked by the army to quell public disturbances, indicating their increasing authority in the country.
An Egyptian Christian told Barnabas Aid that there were real concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood will become the ruling party in the country. He said that while he did not think that this would spell the end for Christians in the country, it would make life extremely difficult for them.
Egyptian Christian leaders expressed concerns this week about a draft law on places of worship. It stipulates that building a new place of worship will only be allowed if it is 1km away from an existing one, and that the construction of a new place of worship will require the consent of the local governor. It is feared that these restrictions will be used against Christians, who already face severe discrimination regarding church buildings and consequently have nowhere near enough to meet the needs of the Christian community.
Article updated 16 June
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