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Al-Nour Party: Egypt's Salafis go mainstream - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Nearly four months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime -which was known for its hard-line attitude toward the Islamists- the Salafi movement has established an official political party under the name of Al-Nour [The Light]. This is considered by Sheikh Abdul-Munim al-Shahhat, official spokesman of the Salafi movement in Egypt, as a historic turning point in the relations between the Salafis and Egyptian society, and the real beginning of the Salafi movement.

An official statement by the Political Parties Affairs Commission, chaired by Justice Kamal Nafi, said that the request, which was submitted on 24 May of the establishment of the Al-Nour Party, has been accepted. The statement points out that the Al-Nour Party, in the light of the acceptance of its establishment, has become a legal entity, and has the right to practice its political activities starting the day following the issuing of the decision on 13 June 2011.

Samih al-Jazzar, head of the Al-Nour Party in Cairo, has expressed his happiness with the accreditation of the Party. Al-Jazzar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Al-Nour Party will hold a press conference regarding the party’s next step, particularly concerning the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

This is not the first time that an Islamists group has applied for a political party license. Former members of the Muslim Brotherhood have acquired an official party under the name of Al-Wasat Party, and the Muslim Brotherhood officially acquired the license for the Freedom and Justice Party. This has aroused great apprehensions about Islamists ascending to power, which was used as a fear tactic by the previous regime, whether with the international powers abroad or with some of the constituents of Egyptian society at home, especially the Christians and some secular and left-wing powers. This has motivated the Islamists to declare in many of their stances the form of the state they aspire for in Egypt of the future, and their real stance toward the hegemony over the decision-making in the country.

It should be noted that in Egypt there are some 24 small parties none of which represents any threat worth mentioning to the former ruling National Democratic Party, which the authorities decided to dissolve about a month ago, and which was chaired by Mubarak for some 30 years until his regime was toppled on 11 February 2011.

However, today members of the Salafi movement stress that the state they aspire for is “a democratic civil state with Islamic authority,” and that they do not aspire to assume power, they do not want either the presidency or posts, and they do not pursue achieving a majority in parliament, but they aspire for comprehensive reform in the political, economic, social, scientific, educational, and media fields, and in all aspects of life.

The Salafi movement has participated in the continuation of protests in Egypt, and Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Jihad, and the Islamic Group in addition to the Salafis, have acquired greater scope for working in the street that was not available under Mubarak’s rule. Also, many of these movements have announced their intention to establish parties with religious authority, a matter that has worried a wide sector of the Christian Egyptians, especially after this took place simultaneously with calls for applying the Islamic Shariaa and with attacks against churches.

These worries are rejected by Imad Abdul-Ghafur, a representative for the founders of the Al-Nour Party, who stresses the need to guarantee the religious freedom of Egypt’s Christians, and their right to arbitrate to their religion in the issues of creed and in the issues in which there is a difference in rulings between their religion and the Islamic Shariaa, and also he stresses the need to establish a modern state on modern bases, and to reject the model of the religious state.

Within this context, Al-Shahhat stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat: “Despite the fact that Al-Nour Party has a Salafi background, the representative of the founders of the party does not like this description, and leans toward presenting Al-Nour Party as an Egyptian party for all Egyptians, and considers the party as another turning point in the relations between Salafis and society, and in the society’s feeling that the Salafis offer comprehensive social solutions through a group of experts, each in his field, while adhering to the Islamic identity.” Al-Shahhat stresses that Al-Nour Party’s accreditation represents a real beginning.

Regarding the change in policy regarding the formation of Salafi political parties, the spokesman for the Salafi movement in Egypt told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Previously we announced that we would not establish political parties, but we invited those concerned with politics, who are convinced of the Salafi ideology, to establish parties. We have learned that a very large number have been thinking of establishing parties, with Al-Nour Party at their forefront. We still are waiting to see whether the rest of the groups will join it, or will establish other parties. This is an issue on which we restrict ourselves to watching.”

Al-Shahhat adds: “Before addressing the invitation to form parties, we have said that the reality on the ground has changed, and the fatwa now is to participate. Otherwise, we would not have addressed the invitation to form parties.”

Concerning the participation of the Salafi movement in future parliamentary and the presidential elections, Al-Shahhat points out that the basic fact of the existence of a party means that it participates in the elections process; however, whether it will or will not have a candidate, this is another issue. He points out that there is a commitment by the Islamist tendency, at least the major currents, not to present a presidential candidate; “as for the parliamentary elections, we will participate in them.”

With regard to Christians joining the Al-Nour Party, Al-Shahhat says: “The presence of some Christians, who respect their covenant with the Muslims, and who consider that the Muslims have the right to have their Shariaa as the ruling one, and their identity as the prevalent one, is something that undoubtedly calls for being happy with them and for welcoming them, and not otherwise.” Al-Shahhat points out that Christians joining an Islamist party is a form of this recognition.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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