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Egypt's Islam-based votes worry some

Egypt's Islam-based votes worry some
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This is the first time that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has been able to participate legally in elections, with its Freedom and Justice Party, FJP, which it founded this year. As in other key parts of the country, in the second-largest city, Alexandria, activists, feeling their time had come, could not contain their joy. They accompanied ballot boxes all the way to the counting station.

Even before the electoral results were tallied, the head of the FJP made clear he expected a major groundshift to take place in Egypt, where the military has ruled since the ouster of President Mubarak.

Mohamed Mursi, FJP leader, said: He said: “The majority in the upcoming parliament will form the government – a coalition. We think that will be for the best.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has not openly called for the establishment of an Islamic state, and yet its emergence as Egypt’s biggest opposition movement has been accompanied by surging support for the more conservative al Nour. This is a Sunni fundamentalist, Salafist, party, which espouses Islamic theology with a literalist and, some say, puritanical approach, and grassroots appeal.

One of its candidates, Mohamed Ahmed, explained: “We feed orphans and the poor. We fix things between people.”

The Salafists, with al Nour, want Islamic Sharia in all aspects of life – Islam as it was in the time of the Prophet Mohammed. Dealings between this party and non-Islamist parties have been difficult.

Secularists and the Christian Copts of Egypt are uneasy about the reinforcement of Islamist politics. The Ghad Al Thawra liberal party of Ayman Nour insists that Egypt cannot move forward without everyone’s cooperation.

Nour said: “This phase of politics must be marked by the drafting of a constitution, and a respectable charter, with laws that support it. Afterwards we can move into a phase of competition. But this phase demands that all the forces in politics collaborate and coordinate, demands that we work with the Islamists and others – with the liberals and those of the left – to reach the point where our political status makes us ready for competition by the front door.”