News / Middle East

Egypt's Islamists Stress Pragmatism

Elizabeth Arrott

The extent of Egypt's Islamist parties' appeal will come into clearer focus in coming weeks, as results from the nation's first post-revolution elections come in. So far, expressions of support have been strong, especially in areas outside the capital. Fayoum, Egypt, a bastion of conservative Islam, now appears yearning for practical solutions to the country's problems.

For an apparently tranquil town, Fayoum has a violent past.  Killers for one of the most extreme Islamist groups Egypt has ever known came from here.  But Gama'a Islamiya is showing a more moderate face these days.

Mohammed Marzouk, a spokesman for Gama'a, is running for a seat under its Construction and Development party banner.   Marzouk says that Egypt needs a modern state, with an Islamist background.  He promises his party will solve the problems of the country, and his constituents, "at the highest level."

The candidate for a group accused of plotting President Anwar Sadat's 1981 assassination and of carrying out the 1997 massacre of tourists at Luxor, now stresses pragmatic concerns.  Marzouk discusses plans to make laws creating "social justice" so that there would no longer be businesses where one employee earns 300,000 Egyptian pounds, while another makes only 300.

Though Gama'a Islamiya renounced violence in 2003, the shift from murder to income redistribution might seem impossibly abrupt.  But many in this hard-hit oasis town are taking the group at its word.

"You shouldn't be afraid of Islam.  You should never be afraid of Islam, because if the Islamists follow the Quran there will be no problem," noted voter Hussein el Sayed.

But some do foresee problems, in particular the country's minority Christians. Marzouk offers words of reassurance and says Christians will not be persecuted, and that his party will give them their rights just like the Muslims. The law, he adds, will be applied equally.  

As he campaigns though, the sincerity of the Gama'a candidate's words in general are called into question. Marzouk greets rival candidate Essam Herazah just as the Wafd politician is getting ready for an interview.

Herazah accuses Marzouk of making nice for the cameras, but meanwhile having his campaign posters torn down. Marzouk denies that's going on, and the Wafd candidate does not press the point.

Herazah even makes concessions to the religious wave, adapting his party's liberal foundation for the audience in Fayoum. The Wafd, he says, will keep away from the idea of liberalism and secularism.

It is a new era in Egypt, with the Wafd moving away from modernity, and Gama'a Islamiya moving toward it, and the fight for an acceptable middle ground, at least rhetorically, is underway.

Egypt's Elections

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid