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Islamic groups join forces for Egyptian elections

June 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Egypt, Persecution, World

Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Montasser al-Zayat CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Hossam el-Hamalawy

Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Montasser al-Zayat CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Hossam el-Hamalawy

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has joined forces with a radical Salafist group to contest the upcoming parliamentary elections in an ominous move for the country’s Christian community. The Muslim Brotherhood, the leading Islamic party in Egypt, has formed a political alliance with Jama’a al-Islamiyya, which was behind a number of terrorist attacks in the 1990s. The two groups announced that they will form a coalition to contest September’s parliamentary elections in order to combat secular forces in the country.

 Muslim Brotherhood lawyer Montasser al-Zayat said, “The Islamic movements are uniting, despite their different ideologies, because they feel Islam is threatened.” And Jama’a al-Islamiyya spokesman Osama Hafez underlined the parties’ commitment to upholding the place of Islam in Egyptian society: “god’s words must rule and Islam must be in the hearts of the citizens”. Amr al-Shobky, an expert at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that this religious cooperation reflected an imbalanced political scale, tilted towards the Islamic movements. Despite the Salafi doctrine of non-involvement in democracy and elections, other Salafists have formed a political party, Al Nour, which means “light”. The party says Christians would be given “the right to refer to their religion” but “the higher reference will be for Islamic sharia”.

 Salafist attacks on Christians:

 These are ominous developments for Egypt’s Christians, who have come under attack at the hands of Salafists in a number of high-profile incidents since the revolution. The radical Muslim sect was behind assaults on two churches and homes in Imbaba district, Cairo, in which 12 people were killed and scores injured last month. And in April, Salafists rallied against the appointment of a Christian governor in Qena, Upper Egypt. Some threatened to kill Emad Mikhail if he assumed office; he was suspended for three months by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf in a bid to quell the unrest. Abd Al-Azim, a Jama’a leader in Alexandria, sent this message to Egypt’s Christians following a barrage of attacks against them: If the Christians want safety they should submit to the rule of god and be confident that the Islamic sharia will protect them.

 In other worrying developments, the group recently advocated the formation of a Saudi-style modesty police “to arrest those who commit immoral acts”. Jama’a has been linked to Al-Qaeda, and its spiritual leader Omar Abdel-Rahman is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Analysing the increased hostility towards Egyptian Christians and the growing power of Islamist groups, Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute, who monitors the situation of religious minorities in the Muslim world, said, “I expect Egypt to become more and more like Iran”, resulting in “an Islamic awakening” in which the state “uses its coercive powers” to induce conformity with sharia law.

 – Barnabas Team

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