Egypt’s Vote Propels lslamic law Into Spotlight

Muslim Brotherhood’s call to apply only the broad principles of Islamic law allows too much freedom.

Sheik Abdel Moneim el-Shahat, a leader of the ultraconservative Salafi movement, has called for stricter use of Islamic law. 

Sheik Shahat is a leader of the ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis, whose coalition of parties is running second behind the Brotherhood party in the early returns of Egypt’s parliamentary elections. He and his allies are demanding strict prohibitions against interest-bearing loans, alcohol and “fornication,” with traditional Islamic corporal punishment like stoning for adultery.

“I want to say: citizenship restricted by Islamic Shariah, freedom restricted by Islamic Shariah, equality restricted by Islamic Shariah,” he said in a public debate. “Shariah is obligatory, not just the principles — freedom and justice and all that.” 

The unexpected electoral success of the Salafis — reported to have won about 25 percent of the votes in the first round of the elections, second only to the roughly 40 percent for the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party — is terrifying Egyptian liberals and troubling the West.

But their new clout is also presenting a challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood, in part by plunging it into a polarizing Islamist-against-Islamist debate over the application of Islamic law in Egypt’s promised democracy, a debate the Brotherhood had worked hard to avoid. 

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For more relevant reading, have a look at 'Egypt: The Moment of Change' By Rabab El-Mahdi and Philip Marfleet

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