• 20:19
  • Wednesday ,09 September 2015

Secularists take aim at Islamists

By Gulf News Egypt

Copts and Poliltical Islam


Wednesday ,09 September 2015

Secularists take aim at Islamists
Egyptian secularists are pushing for the country’s Islamist parties to be declared illegal amid an ongoing security clampdown on Islamists.Egyptian secularists are pushing for the country’s Islamist parties to be declared illegal amid an ongoing security clampdown on Islamists.
The secularists, including ex-parliamentarians, writers and political activists, have mounted a nationwide campaign aimed at gathering endorsements from the public to push for a court ban on Islamist parties ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections.
“The ‘No to Religious Parties’ campaign seeks to collect about 30 million signatures from across the country and use them as a pressure card for filing a lawsuit requesting the disbanding of all political parties, which mix politics with religion,” Mohammad Attiyah, a coordinator of the drive, said.
“The campaign is based on article No 45 in the constitution, which prohibits the establishment of political parties on religious grounds,” Attiyah told a recent press conference in Cairo.
“Our campaign also aims to spread awareness among ordinary people and exposing religious parties, which exploit religious feelings to gain votes and dominate parliament.”
The campaign has secured around 750,000 signatures in the mostly Muslim country since it was launched late last month, according to Attiyah.
Islamists, including the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, won the majority of seats in Egypt’s first parliamentary polls held months after the expulsion of long-time president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising in 2011.
The parliament was dissolved in June 2012 and Egypt has since been without a legislature.
In the wake of the army’s 2013 overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, a court dissolved the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of his Muslim Brotherhood group, which has ben listed as a terrorist organisation.
At present, there are nine Islamist parties, mainly the ultra-conservative, Salafist Al Nour Party, which came second to the Brotherhood in the 2011 parliamentary vote, with 26 per cent of the seats.
Al Nour was a major backer of Mursi’s toppling. Critics accuse Al Nour of being an extension of the Brotherhood.
“Al Nour represents the back door for the Ikhwan [Brotherhood] to return to parliament,” said Attiyah. However, he was quick to point out that his campaign does not specifically target Al Nour. “Our campaign focuses on all religious parties, which are operating in violation of the constitution.”
Officials in Al Nour have denied that theirs is a religious party and downplayed the significance of the anti-Islamist campaign. “Secular powers try to exclude Al Nour from the political life on the pretext that it works along religious lines,” said Salah Abdul Mabud, a senior leader in the party.
“Al Nour is a political party with a religious background, which does not violate the constitution that states that Sharia is the main legislation in Egypt.”
Abdul Mabud added that Al Nour will field Christian candidates in the forthcoming parliamentary race as proof that it is not a religious party.
“We are fully ready for the elections. The presence of Al Nour in the new parliament is important as it will maintain balance in the legislative life with liberal and secular parties.”
Other Islamist parties have yet to say if they will run for parliament.
Most of these parties have seen several of their members detained in the relentless security sweep that has targeted followers of the Brotherhood and its allies since Mursi’s overthrow.