Egypt's Salafists back Sisi, seek to eclipse Brotherhood

The party's flexibility has contributed to its survival, avoiding politics then embracing it to manoeuvre in Egypt's volatile and polarised political climate

Egypt's Salafists back Sisi, seek to eclipse Brotherhood

World Bulletin/News Desk

Egypt's Salafist Al Nour party is voicing interest in joining President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's new government as part of a strategy to replace the banned Moslem Brotherhood as the country's most influential movement.

Al Nour chief Younes Makhyoun, who enjoys strong support in Egypt's poor cities and slum areas where Sisi's liberal-leaning allies are weak, said in an interview with Reuters his party's strategy would be to "help Sisi in his rule". He backed the former general when the army toppled the Brotherhood last year.

When asked if his party would be willing to take up a post in Sisi's new government, Makhyoun, said: "Very likely and I expect so if God is willing."

"We are ready and we don't mind any opportunity to present through it something for Egypt. It is a national duty to seek that. I would not mind joining the president as a consultant on his team or in the coming cabinet if he offered us so."

Political and security officials say he might see advantages to engaging them in some form after parliamentary elections expected in few months provide a clear view of the country's political landscape.

Sisi could need broader support in moving to crush militants who have stepped up attacks on soldiers and police since the former army chief deposed President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood last year after mass protests against his rule.

For now, security officials said, Sisi needs technocrats to fix a soaring budget deficit and education and health problems.

The Salafists have already asserted some influence. In the aftermath of Mursi's ouster, they became kingmakers, blocking, in one instance, the nomination of a prime minister.

Opposing Sisi would be a risky affair for any political movement. Security forces killed hundreds of Brotherhood members in street protests, arrested thousands of others and put its leaders on trial.

Al Nour appears to be betting that favour from following its support for Sisi will help it remain relevant, and safe, in a country where repression against Muslims has reached unprecedented levels.

Al Nour came second after the Brotherhood in the 2012 parliamentary election with 20 percent of the vote.

"There is no doubt that the Muslim Brotherhood made major mistakes when they were in power and that they affected us," Makhyoun said, talking in his villa in the poor village of Abu Homos, north of Cairo.

"It had affected us negatively. Our power now on the street is different to how it was after the Jan. 25th revolution," he added, referring to the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and brought Mursi to power.

But the Brotherhood's demise has also given Nour the chance to become the dominant group.

The Nour party is formed mostly from religious preachers and popular Salafi scholars. It is unclear where it gets money to fund mosques, charities and branches across Egypt.

But some analysts said it could be getting a financial aid from similar groups in wealthy Gulf Arab States.

FLEXIBILITY

The party's flexibility has contributed to its survival, avoiding politics then embracing it to manoeuvre in Egypt's volatile and polarised political climate.

Sisi offered rare praise of an Islamist grouping when he commended what he called Al Nour's nationalism.

But comments in television interviews during the election campaign offered strong hints that he would show no tolerance for overly-ambitious Islamists, saying there is no such thing as a religious state - challenging a central Salafist concept.

Makhyoun, a soft-spoken dentist with a long beard, did not seem disturbed by Sisi's remarks.

"He was talking about the practices of a certain group that used religion to reach power," he said, in a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood.

In order to survive Egypt's upheaval, Al Nour was nimble. The party first welcomed Mursi; then when mass protests against his rule erupted, it switched sides.

These days it endorses the state's campaign against the Brotherhood. Human rights groups say there are now over 16,000 political detainees in Egypt.

"We first need to build the state's institutes and reach stability then fix any such violations," said Makhyoun, who worked as a religious preacher for 40 years.

"We know that the Egyptians are religious, love Islam and its laws and in time and by us being close to the people on the streets, our situation and image will be enhanced."

"I think the situation is moving in the right direction."

Last Mod: 10 Haziran 2014, 18:07
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