The NYT on Divisions Among Egyptian Islamists

An interesting piece on the Egyptian elections in the Times. Now that an electoral commission has disqualified the Muslim Brotherhood’s preferred presidential candidate , Khairat al-Shater, as well as the leading Salafi candidate, the two principle Islamist contenders are the MB’s Mohamed Morsi and a rival, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh. Morsi, the more conservative of the two, embraces a kind of back-to-basics program that, among other things, calls for limiting the presidency to Muslims and establishing a council of Muslim scholars to advise Parliament on Islamic law — the MB’s “old ‘Islam is the solution’ platform,” he declares. (The Times explains for its readers that the MB is known for “its moderate Islamist politics;” I guess Mori did not get the memo). Aboul Fotouh, whom the MB expelled two years ago for advocating political pluralism, offers a competing, more liberal Islamist vision. For example, he rejects  restrictions on political office for non-Muslims and the idea of the scholars’ council.

In opinion surveys, majorities of Egyptians consistently say that Sharia should be the only source of law in their country. Which version of Sharia prevails  will depend largely on the result of this conflict within the Islamist movement. Mori’s strategy is to appeal to more conservative elements, including the very conservative Salafis, while Aboul Fotouh seems to be staking his political future on more progressive Muslims, as well as the relatively small number of Egyptian secular liberals and Christians. MB and Salafi candidates received a combined two-thirds of the vote in a recent election for a new national assembly in Egypt, and one has to assume that Mori’s electoral strategy is the correct one. Time will tell.

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