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Egyptian Shiite theoretician to launch party | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Egyptian Shiite theoretician, Dr Ahmad Rasim al-Nafis, has denied that the political party he is seeking to form would be sectarian or would aim at spreading Shiism in Egypt, emphasizing that the Al-Tahrir party will be political and civilian. “We are Egyptian Muslims,” he said. “We are proud of our Islam and our Egyptianness. We are proud of our position in the community.” Al-Nafis, who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat by telephone from Beirut, stressed that he would strive to apply Islamic law and its precepts, providing that this was not done “in the Taliban manner.” He hoped that Egyptian relations with Iran would rise to the level of relations with Israel. “Egypt’s security,” he said, “is related to Iran’s security.”

In mid-October, Al-Nafis submitted papers to the Commission on Political Party Affairs in Egypt for the establishment of the Al-Tahrir party. He turned in 5,534 proxies, including Shiites, liberals, Copts, communists, and Sufis. He said that his party would include all segments of the social spectrum, most of which are Sunni, and that he would be able to gather a larger number of proxies if he wanted, “but the matter is not a contest about numbers.”

Although the commission has thus far not approved the establishment of the party, the Al-Tahrir party has aroused much controversy concerning its violation of the constitution, which prohibits the existence of political parties on a religious basis, not to mention charges related to the spreading of Shiism in Egyptian society and to the obtaining of Iranian funding by some of its leaders.

However, Al-Nafis, who is a 59-year-old physician and university professor, stated that these accusations are weak and false. He stated that: “The party has a group of ideas, which are the measure by which it should be judged, and no one should classify it on the basis of religious sect.”

Al-Nafis said: “The matter of the Shiite minority and the Sunni majority does not occupy our minds. We are Egyptian Muslims. We are proud of our Islam and our Egyptianness. We are proud of our position in the community, a position that does not spring from sectarian affiliation.” He explained that sectarian affiliation is being raised now to cause division among Muslims and Egyptians. He added: “Any intellectual current or political party that orients itself to the minority, that defends a certain number of people, and gets into conflict with the society, had better stay home and not participate in political life.”

Shiites, whose number in Egypt ranges between 15,000 and 20,000 according to some observers, say that they suffered severe security problems and restrictions under the previous regime and that fear of the spread of Shiism in Egypt led to their persecution.

Al-Nafis stressed that Al-Tahrir was a civilian party that believed in rule by the people. It supported freedom and was opposed to overgrown liberalism. “If you want to classify us,” he said, “we might call it a democratic, left-leaning, Islamic party.” It was a party that sided with the rights of the oppressed and that called on Egyptians to unite, follow the path of the resistance, and cut off the hand of American and Western hegemony in the region.”

Al-Nafis expressed his support for applying Islamic Law in Egypt and that it should be a fixed reference point for the Islamic community as a whole. Article Eight in the constitution should remain respected and protected, because no one in Egypt would ever be able to pass a law openly in conflict with Islamic law. However, he stated that the application of the provisions of Islamic law should not be done “in the Taliban manner” – referring to the Afghan Taliban movement. Islamic law does not consist merely of the prescribed punishments (hudud), but is applied in morals, business relations, policy, and so forth.

Regarding the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt (SCAF), Al-Nafis says that it is in an unenviable position, and that we should not cast the burden on it alone, because it is not the only player on the scene. However, he also pointed to the existence of a certain amount of provocation and a desire to prohibit or destroy the forces that express real opposition, despite their not constituting a threat to the SCAF or anyone else. Al-Nafis therefore rejects any military trials for civilians.

About relations with Iran, Al-Nafis said he hoped that Egyptian-Iranian relations would rise to the level of relations with Israel. “We should not be accused of treason because of our striving for this.” He pointed out that anyone who holds that Egypt’s security is related to the security of the Gulf should realize that Iran, too, is part of the Gulf. “This means that Egypt’s security is related to Iran’s security.”

Al-Nafis stressed that there are three major countries in the region: Egypt, Iran, and Turkey and that any disturbance to the balance of any country threatened all. He praised Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s call for an alliance with Egypt politically, economically, and culturally. At the same time, he denied that there was any Iranian funding for his party: “We rely on ourselves. We receive no funding from anyone. We abide by the political parties law.”