Egypt's ultra-conservatives pull ¼ of votes

2011-12-07 11:54

Cairo - With little political experience but a huge religious following, Egypt's ultra-conservative Salafi movement has pulled off the biggest surprise yet of the country's first-round parliamentary elections by taking a quarter of the vote.

The Salafis, who plan to use their newfound clout to push for Islamisation of Egypt, are flush with cash and are using their control of satellite TV stations and mosques across the country to sell themselves not only as an alternative to the corrupt old regime, but as a purer alternative to other Islamist parties.

Their newfound power has raised concerns at home and abroad that they'll drag Egypt in a more fundamentalist direction that could limit personal freedom, harm tourism and alter foreign policy.

"Their impact is huge and dominating," said Tharwat al-Kharabawi, an Egyptian expert on Islamist movements. "For the poor who live in hardship, Salafis give them hope without necessarily providing alternative or practical solutions."

1/3 of Egyptians vote

The Salafi Al-Nour party won nearly 25% of seats contested in the first elections since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak in an uprising, a vote declared the freest and fairest in the country's modern history.

They came in second only to the more moderate Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the best known and organised party, which won 37%.

About a third of Egyptians voted in the first stage, but the results are not expected to change drastically in the next two rounds that will cover the rest of the country.

The Salafis surprise electoral success reflected years of grass-roots organising throughout the country, which gave them a ready-made network of support when they entered politics.

The movement, founded in Egypt in the 1920s, remained apolitical throughout most of its history, with preachers focusing on the importance of strict religious observance and spurning democracy for prioritising man's law over God's.

They also offered social and medical services to the poor, winning them backers even among those who don't follow their strict ideology.

With the collapse of Mubarak's regime, the Salafis jumped into politics, seeing it as the best way to make Islamic law, or Shariah, the basis of the Egyptian state.

Restrictions on democracy

Depicting themselves as "guardians of Shariah", they formed several political parties with names such as Virtue, Authenticity and Light.

Leading clerics with their trademark long, bushy beards and Saudi-style robes became regular guests on TV talk shows, spreading their views.

Many also issued religious edicts, or fatwas, attacking secularists, saying women and Christians can't run for president and calling for a legal system that will punish those who break Islamic law.

Their leaders still say Islam must restrict democracy.

"The mechanism of democracy suits me, like elections and ballot boxes to choose my representative," said Yousseri Hamed, spokesperson for the strongest Salafi party, al-Nour.

"The idea that the people make their own laws and decide what is prohibited and what is permitted, we reject that."

  • joedoos - 2011-12-07 12:09

    "Many also issued religious edicts, or fatwas, attacking secularists, saying women and Christians can't run for president and calling for a legal system that will punish those who break Islamic law." If this is done in any country against Muslims they will throw their toys out of the cot. Sorry but Muslims have serious double standards. They want all the right in Western countries but in their own countries they give none. This comment is not prejudice, it simply state facts.

      Yusuf - 2011-12-07 12:16

      25% of the population.what are you going on about

      joedoos - 2011-12-07 12:24

      This is the standard all over the Middle East, Yusuf. All minority religious groups are subjected to Sharia Law and things like running for president etc is not allowed. They can say to you anything about your religion but if you say anything about Islam you are jailed. this is a fact and this is what will happen in Egypt. Watch, because the Muslim Brotherhood isn't much more progressive than these guys.

      Chris - 2011-12-07 12:24

      @Joe, I'm 100% in agreement

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 12:39

      @joedoos ,why dont you respect the choice of egyptians .if majority wants to impose sharia law on their own country, is that a double standard !! . On the other hand, chritians in egypt cant run for presidant, bcos they are minority (10%) ,just like whites here in south africa.

      joedoos - 2011-12-07 12:54

      The majority of Germans were Nazis, does that make the ideology of oppression right? Weak argument.

      Flowingriver - 2011-12-07 12:58

      Very soon u gonna hear that NATO is gonna have to strike Egypt cos they have nukes. They are gonna efup Egypt like they have efed up the rest of the middle east!

  • Kobus - 2011-12-07 12:44

    This is not good news at all, and before you say anything Caaqil Mahadale, why dont you go back to Somali and go rob a boat. Can see why the locals here cannot stand you.

  • Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 12:49

    Hello ,wellcome to new era in middle east, where all QUADRATIC equations will be balanced as soon as possible, and if that hapen, imperialists and their fellow friend ISRAIL is gonna get got,....!!!.,

      Kobus - 2011-12-07 12:51

      Try your luck with Israel and you will see your ars*(( so fast your head will spin.

      Yusuf - 2011-12-07 12:56

      oh kobus.thats what your forefathers said about this country

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 13:10

      Yusuf,, look at how kobus defends israili regime who hold thousands of mass destruction and nuclear weopons .but allaahs willings, it will end one day. We wish to be witnesf

  • Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 13:00

    @kobus ,look at skin, why dont you go back to your snow drilled EUROPE ,bcos here is AFRICA, i am proud to be somali discent , at the sametime south african and canadian citizen ,and i am here in my green continent ... AFRICA. !!

      Kobus - 2011-12-07 13:07

      I will leave you to the rest of the locals to sort out :)

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 13:17

      Even you can bring with your jewish minority , and take into account you are vulnerable soft target to an experienced predator.

      joedoos - 2011-12-07 13:49

      This sounds like a physical threat. Bad troll, down troll!

      Kobus - 2011-12-07 14:20

      No Joe, he is not just a troll, he is a DROL!

      Hugh - 2011-12-07 15:51

      Predator? dont you mean goat and camel farmer? You really mustn't believe everything you think, your not that smart.

  • bushpioneer - 2011-12-07 13:09

    It just does not make sense. These guys fought and some, even died to topple a government that did not promote democracy. They did this to gain the opportunity to vote. To have a voice. Now that they have a voice, they want to vote in parties that will stifle and take there voices away again?? Common sense just aint so common I guess..

      joedoos - 2011-12-07 13:51

      No it will not take their voice away, it will strengthen Islam for them and all those pesky little minorities can now be run out of the country. They did it democratically so now it must be o.k. right?

  • Martin - 2011-12-07 13:44

    They use democracy to get in and then they do away with it. As Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan once let slip that democracy was a tram you ride until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.

      Caaqil Mahadale - 2011-12-07 14:14

      @martin, you are right, they use it to get in , as far-right part leader, AVIGDOR LIEBERMAN did it, to hang upon on foriegn ministry, ., it deponds on what people vote for...

  • Tom - 2011-12-07 14:47

    For a great many ''previously advantaged'' South Africans, Israel to them stands as the last beacon of hope......after the demise of apartheid in South Africa.......the last stand against the 'Hordes of less than pale skinned Barbarians'........that is why you will find them flying the Israeli flag at every opportunity! They see the ''Arab Spring'' as a step backwards.....because it doesn't suit their interests. Viva Freedom.....Viva Democracy! Amandla! Awetu!

  • Anwar - 2011-12-08 14:56

    The trouble in the world is causing all people to begin hating each other and slandering each others religions and belief systems. we still practice our faiths within the legal systems of our countries, whether it be Sharia, Democracy, communism etc. The law is still law and according to any government if you break their laws, it is punishable .. it is not just Islamic law that punishes for breaking its laws. The fact is no matter what law a country adopts, the citizens have to abide or rebel(if they wish) As for this case if the vote is is going pro Islamic, then who are we to judge cos its clearly what the people want Same here in SA when we had our first election, ANC won and its what the majority people wanted. If you dont like it.. No one is forcing you to go live there .. stay where you are and be happy with the laws in your own country, or not Muslims living in a secular state donot have some of their islamic rights fulfilled, so why complain when non-muslims living in an Islamic state have some privileges not fulfilled Would you allow a muslim to run for president in Jewish State ? Would the Pope Give up his position for a muslim cleric to reign?

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