The Salafist power struggle
Egypt's largest Salafist bloc is in turmoil. Leaders are arguing over the influence of its parent organization, its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and irregularities in internal party elections.
The Salafists are an integral part of Egypt's current political landscape. Here, as in other Muslim countries, they promote a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
But what sets Egypt's Salafists apart is their political influence. In the country's first parliamentary election the group's largest political party, the ultra-orthodox Nour Party, took about 25 percent of the seats, making it the second-strongest political force after the Muslim Brotherhood.
But party spokesman Mohamed El-Nour stressed that there's a big difference. "Our party is still very young and just making its first steps," he said. "The party is just one year old, and our internal rules are not entirely clear or mature."
Loud and boisterous discussions would therefore be expected from such a young party. But the events of the last two weeks have the makings of a political thriller. First, the party presidium fired the head of the party, Emad Abdel-Ghafour. Ghafour reacted by ousting the group of his adversary, Yasser Borhami, leaving the question of who was actually calling the shots.
Politicians versus preachers
Autor: Matthias Sailer Mohamed El-Nour
Mohamed El-Nour is one of three spokesmen for the Nour Party
There are two camps at war with each other within the ultra-conservative Salafists. On the one side is the more pragmatic faction of the party chairman Ghafour, and on the other are Borhami's followers, who are much less willing to compromise.
El-Nour al describes the two men as having very different personalities. "Emad Abdel-Ghafour is a calm individual who knows his way around the political arena, while Sheikh Borhami preaches in mosques," he said. "This is reflected in both their characters."
Borhami is mainly known for his open radicalism. Just recently, he made it clear that Islam allows for a husband to beat his wife under certain circumstances. He refuses to work closely with the Muslim Brotherhood; Ghafour, meanwhile, recently became an adviser to President Mohammed Morsi, of the Brotherhood.
Elijah Zarwan, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), sees these differing positions reflected throughout the party. "Many in the Salafi movement see their future as a competitor to the right wing of the Brotherhood, and others see an opportunity to make common cause with the Brotherhood to advance common objectives," he said.
But since the last parliamentary election, the Muslim Brotherhood has become increasingly resistant to working with the Salafists. It's therefore likely that many Salafists are skeptical of Ghafour's close relationship to the Brotherhood. (continue reading...)