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We are committed to enforcing Islamic Sharia law – Egyptian Salafist party leader | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Salafist Al-Nour Party leader, Dr. Emad Eddine Abdel-Ghaffour, whose party won nearly 25 percent of the parliamentary seats contested in the first phase of the Egyptian elections, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “enforcing the Islamic Sharia is one of the essential parts of the Al-Nour party [political] program” adding “this is our objective, but it will take years to achieve.” The Egyptian Salafist political leader stressed that the priority in Egypt now must be reform, particularly political, social, economic, and security reform, in addition to the formation of a national coalition government which would bring together all political parties in Egypt.

The results of the first phase of the Egyptian elections has surprised and concerned many political and international observers, in particular the strong performance of Egypt’s Islamist parties, most prominently the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, as well as Dr. Emad Eddine Abdel-Ghaffour’s Salafist party.

Expected Egyptian presidential candidate Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei said “the [election] outcome so far is not the greatest” adding “the youth feel let down. They don’t feel that any of the revolution’s goals have been achieved…they were decimated [at the elections].”

ElBaradei also said “I worry, of course, about some of the extreme stuff coming out from some of the Salafists. When you hear that the literature of somebody like [Egyptian Nobel Laureate] Naguib Mahfouz is equal to prostitution, or if you hear that we are still debating whether some women are going to drive cars or not…or whether democracy is against [Islamic] Sharia…statements such as this, of course, send shockwaves.”

He added “I think the Muslim Brotherhood in particular and some of the Salafists should quickly send messages of assurances both inside the country and outside…to make sure that society continues to be cohesive and to ensure that investment will come in.”

Whilst Egypt’s Coptic community has also expressed deep concern about the extent of the electoral victory achieved by Egypt’s Islamist parties, hoping that there will be a shift towards more liberal or left-wing political parties in the next two election rounds. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party won 36.6 percent of the vote in the first phase of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, whilst the Salafist Al-Nour Party won 24.4 percent of the vote.

Al-Nour party leader, Dr. Emad Eddine Abdel-Ghaffour told Asharq Al-Awsat that he expects his party to gain a similar proportion of the vote in the second and third rounds of the Egyptian parliamentary elections that are scheduled to take place later this month and in January. He also rejected the claims that Al-Nour party MPs would seek to limit personal freedoms and impose restrictions on what is socially permissible in Egypt with regards to clothing and public behaviour, stressing that this is something that cannot be forcibly imposed upon Egyptian society.

As for the furore that has been raised regarding the Salafist viewpoint on the literature of Egyptian Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, Dr. Abdel-Ghaffour asked “why must we focus on such issues? Naguib Mahfouz’s novels are an old issue that has been settled once and for all by the Islamic Research Foundation. We do not want to open discussions on this issue again”. The Egyptian Salafist party leader stressed that “we now need to mobilize all our energy for the battle we are fighting to rebuild the country…this must be our top priority. We shouldn’t focus on theoretical issues and things that divide us…this can all be postponed.”

Abdel-Ghaffour stressed that the Al-Nour Party’s priority is to “fight the political battle to reform political practices and the former state of affairs in the country, draw up a new constitution, emphasize freedom of opinion and freedom of the press, establish a strong national coalition government, and restructure the Ministry of Interior.” As for the issue of Islamic Sharia law being imposed in Egypt, the Salafist party leader told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we will never lose sight of Islamic Sharia law… this is one of the things that is present in our political program. However it will take us years to achieve this…it is an objective that we will seek to reach [in the future], but it is not a starting point.” He also clarified that “this [Islamic Sharia law] cannot be forcibly imposed against the will of the people…it can only be put in place by national consensus.”

As for whether the Salafist Al-Nour Party intends to seek an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, Dr. Abdel-Ghaffour said “the Al-Nour Party extends its hand to any political group to cooperate with it in this stage so long as we can come to an agreement on objectives and methods” adding “however I reject bilateral alliances, or alliances between purely Islamist parties, without the participation of other political forces in society, because I would prefer to see the formation of a national alliance [government].”

The Egyptian Salafist party leader, in a previous interview with Reuters, had explicitly rejected any alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, saying “we hate being followers. They always say we take positions according to the Brotherhood, but we have our own vision…there might be a consensus but…we will remain independent.” He added “we don’t rule out that they may marginalise us and portray us as the troublemaking bloc.”

As for the formation of the new Egyptian government, which was formed by the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF], who remain in control of the country, the Salafist political leader asked “how is it possible for a political trend to achieve a parliamentary majority, and then be asked to sit on the opposition side [in parliament]…this is something that would not happen anywhere else in the world.” He added that he wants to see the formation of a broad-based national alliance in Egypt made up of all parties who win more than 5 percent of parliamentary seats in the forthcoming parliament.

However Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party leader Dr. Mohamed Morsy told the press that talk about the formation of political alliances is premature, particularly as the second and third phases of the Egyptian parliamentary elections are still to be carried out.

Freedom and Justice Party foreign relations secretary, Mohamed Soudan, stressed that “everybody knows that the Muslim Brotherhood are the most moderate political group in the Islamic word” adding “through our programme, we guarantee everyone his citizen rights, regardless of faith. We will not interfere in the relationship between the [Egyptian] citizens and their God.”

Speaking to the press, Salafist Al-Nour Party leader, Dr. Emad Eddine Abdel-Ghaffour denied that there was any conflict between the Al-Nour Party and SCAF, stressing “we often meet to discuss the political situation.” However he also said that “SCAF said the parliamentary majority would form the government” adding “problems could arise if this does not happen, as it would mean the people’s choice is worthless.” He stressed “SCAF cannot prevent a coalition of 50 percent or more from forming the government.”