Islamic groups are gaining attention through the formation of new political parties
Once again political Islamic groups are in the spotlight, this time due to the formation of new political parties. In one day both the Salafis and the Gama’a al-Islamiya announced they will form their own parties and compete in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On Tuesday the First Salafi party submitted its papers to the Parties committee to become the first Salafist party formed in Egypt. For years the Salafi movement rejected involvement in politics and considered forming or joining parties to be forbidden by religion.
The founders of the new party are mostly members or ex-members of the Salafi Call in Alexandria. However, the board of directors of the Salafi Call said earlier it would not form any political party for the time being but would participate in political life through other available means.
Al Nour Islamic party (meaning light) is said to be one of five parties the Salafi movement is planning to form. However, Emad Eddin Abdel Ghafour, one of the prominent Salafi figures in Alexandria and one of the party’s founders, denies it is a religious party.
“We have members from everywhere around the country, and all social sectors are represented in our membership,” he tells Ahram Online. “We have a large number of university professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers and technocrats from almost every sector.” The new parties law issued by the government in March requires that a party have five thousand members to be formally established. Al Nour says its membership currently exceeds seven thousand.
The new party’s program, according to Ghafour aims to “maintain the identity of the country and regain its preeminent position among nations,” and to further economic and social development. Yet the party may be unable to obtain the required legal approval as the new parties law prohibits religious parties.
On its official Facebook group Al Nour identifies itself as a party that “believes Islamic laws should control political, economic and social jurisprudence.” The party also says it believes in the foundation of a modern state based on respectful coexistence among all citizens.
“The party’s founders believe democracy should be achieved within the framework of Islamic law, that people should be free to form or join political parties which should operate without constraints, that power should be transferred peacefully through free and fair direct elections, and that the people should be able to freely choose their leaders,” says the Facebook page.
Al Nour is not the only Islamic party on the way. The Muslim Brotherhood, a major Islamic political group announced weeks ago the formation of the new party Freedom and Justice. The party said it would nominate candidates for about half the seats in parliament.
This week the Gama’a al-Islamiya also announced it will form its own party and participate in the upcoming elections. The Islamic group, which was outlawed in the 1980s after the assassination of former president Anwar el Sadat, had many of its leaders released after the ouster of president Mubarak.
Tarek al-Zumur, one of the group’s senior leaders who was released a couple of months ago, told Reuters the group planned to launch a “civil political party based on Islamic principles” that would welcome members of Egypt’s Christian minority.
Al-Zumur, who was directly involved in the assassination of Sadat is expected to be a member of the new party’s policy unit. “The party will not use violence in dealing with any situation or with the state and will abide by Egyptian law and the constitution,” he told Reuters.
Al-Zumur’s statement about the party is not new, but it is considered by many as a sign that disputes within the group concerning the shape and limits of its participation in the political arena have been settled once and for all before the group’s internal elections.
Last Monday the Gama’a al-Islamiya announced the results of the first internal elections in years. In the press conference Esam Derbala, one of the group’s leaders said that the group does not accept the idea of separation between religion and politics. “We cannot mix them completely or separate them completely,” he says. “We have to understand that Islam supports freedom and social justice, and this is what we will try to teach people in the street.”
All Islamic parties’ founders stress that their parties will be open to Christian membership, a step they hope will reduce society’s fear of political Islam. However, this is not guaranteed.
The Muslim Brotherhood has announced it will not participate in the second “Friday of Rage” set for 27 May.
In a statement released today, the group said that they are very “worried” about calls which have been circulating asking people to head to Tahrir Square for a “Second Revolution,” or “Revolution of Anger”.
“The anger is directed towards who?” the group asked in a statement. “Who is pushing the people to revolt now?”
The statement said that this event could only mean two things; either it’s a revolution against the majority of the people, or it is an attempt to brew trouble between the people and the armed forces and its representatives in the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
The Muslim Brotherhood then urged the people not to let anyone cause tension, either between them or with the armed forces. They asked people not to participate in Friday’s proposed protest and to only take part in initiatives with clear goals that will help fulfil all the demands of the January 25 Revolution.
“The people from all backgrounds revolted against a repressive regime that tried to work towards the inheritance of power and monopolising the country’s wealth for 30 years, which resulted in creating poverty in the country,” the statement said.
The group added that God helped the Egyptian people who struggled during the Mubarak era and now the ousted president has been transferred to the criminal court on charges of murder and profiteering. Mubarak, the statement said, would also stand trial before a military court for taking commissions on arms deals delegated to him by parliament, which “was controlled by a fake majority which forged the will of the nation.”
“The armed forces played a significant role in answering the demands of the people and protecting the revolution,” said the statement. “They also respected the will of the people by announcing a specific date to transfer power through free and transparent elections.”
The Brotherhood added that the people expressed their desire on how they want the new constitution to be drafted when they voted “Yes” to the constitutional amendments in the 19 March referendum.
“Now it is time for the different political forces in the country to think about how to take Egypt to safety by preparing for the parliamentary elections, either by working shoulder to shoulder, teaming up or competing,” they said in the statement.
They added that to date there is no significant disagreement on the principles of the constitution, which most Egyptian citizens, who should have the last say in a referendum, agree on.
Thiruvananthapuram: The United Democratic Front (UDF) liaison committee is meeting here on Monday to sort out the dispute arising out of the Indian Union Muslim League’s demand for an additional berth in the Chandy Cabinet.
The UDF leaders are working out a formula to settle the issue. As things stand now, it appears that the IUML will have to face the question whether it will be in its larger interest to play the age-old brinksmanship it had been used to in the 1990s. Leaders of various UDF constituents admit that the political reality of a slender margin hardly offers much option to any of them to push demands beyond a point.
The Kerala Congress (M) had demanded an additional berth at the time of the discussions for selecting Ministers and allocating portfolios. The IUML, as an afterthought, sprang a surprise by staking its claim to an additional berth. The party’s action of fielding its supremo Panakkad Syed Hyderali Shihab Thangal to wrest a berth was perceived as uncharacteristic of its style of functioning. Moreover, it did not go down well with the Congress leadership which was left fuming over the manner in which the IUML made its announcement.
The Kerala Congress (M), in the meantime, took special care not to affect its cosy ties with the IUML and changed its strategy by demanding the Speaker’s post if the IUML were to be given the ministerial berth.
It appears to be a triangular tussle for the posts of Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Parliamentary Affairs Minister. The Assembly is due to elect the Speaker on the second day of its first session.
The Congress leadership has made it clear that it was unwilling to concede the IUML’s demand. The Congress stand is that the IUML, which had gone through a very bad phase for the major part of the last decade, has higher stakes in ensuring the government’s stability.
As per constitutional provisions, the size of the Cabinet should be limited to 15 per cent of the strength of the Assembly. There is provision for inducting one more Minister to bring up the total number to 21. Keeping in mind the negative publicity that a huge Cabinet might attract, the claimants will have to settle for a formula according to which there will be a Government Chief Whip with Cabinet rank, instead of a Parliamentary Affairs Minister, with the IUML getting this post.
The Congress will take the Speaker’s post, which has become a crucial office in the backdrop of a slender margin, leaving the Deputy Speaker’s post to the Kerala Congress (M). This formula will come up for discussion at the UDF meeting ahead of the Assembly session beginning on June 1, sources said.