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EGYPT: Islamists win majority of parliament

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
CAIRO (BP) -- Islamists, propelled largely by the Muslim Brotherhood, won the overwhelming majority of seats in Egypt's parliament, which held its first session Jan. 23 and is set to elect a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution.

The "mainstream" Brotherhood won about 47 percent of the seats, and an alliance of ultraconservative Islamists known as the Salafis gained another 25 percent, The New York Times reported.

For most of its 84-year history, the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and most organized political group, had been banned from political participation, but that changed last spring with the revolt that led to the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

The young leaders who began the revolt won only a few percent of the seats in parliament.

Islamic moral issues, such as the consumption of alcohol, women's dress and the content of popular culture, are of utmost importance to the Salafis, The Times said, noting the Salafis and the Brotherhood seem to be rivals more than collaborators.

The Hudson Institute's Nina Shea, a religious freedom expert, wrote, "Egypt's Islamist landslide is likely to result in the attempt to coerce -- through lawful and/or extra-judicial punishments -- apostasy and blasphemy codes, which protect from criticism anything and anyone claiming to be Islamic, including quite likely criticism of the Islamist parliamentarians and governmental leaders themselves."


In an Islamist-controlled Egypt, Shea said, "punishments could be meted out to those who dissent from proposals or de facto efforts to revoke women's rights or equal citizenship rights for Coptic Christians or to establish religious police, enforce sharia law or screen political candidates for religious correctness -- all real examples from other countries."

Samuel Tadros, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, said the Muslim Brotherhood's "long-term objective remains unchanged since its founding: the complete transformation of society along Islamic lines."

"The Muslim Brotherhood is at the center of the current struggle to shape Egypt's future. Since the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is the mother organization of Arab Islamism, the ramifications of the struggle in Egypt are likely to spill over to other countries in the region," Tadros wrote in "Current Trends in Islamist Ideology."

The elections, which began in November, were conducted in three phases and were the most democratic in Egypt's modern history.

Already, on the day the new parliament convened, the Islamic influence was obvious, the Associated Press said. Many lawmakers had long beards and clerical turbans or flowing robes.


"What was supposed to be a quiet procedural session turned briefly chaotic when some lawmakers improvised additions to the text of the oath they were taking in turn," AP reported.

"... The oath ends with a pledge to respect the constitution and the law, but several Islamist lawmakers added 'God's law' or 'as long as there are no contradictions with God's law.'"

Outside, protesters who disagreed with the current military control of the country shouted, "No military and no Brotherhood."

The military plans to ensure parliament has little real power, The Times said, until the ratification of a constitution and the election of a president, both of which should be done within the next six months.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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