Christians' and Moderates' Greatest Fear Becoming Reality
Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that radical Islamists acquired the majority vote in phase one of Egypt’s parliamentary elections last week, validating ICC’s early predictions that Islamists would gain control of the country in wake of the revolution that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak.
Islamists attained 65 percent of the overall vote last week in the first of three phases to elect the lower house of parliament which began November 28 and ended today. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party emerged with 36.62 percent of the 9.7 million ballots cast last week. Close behind was the Salafists’ Al Nour Party which garnered 24.4 percent of the vote.
Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many are concerned that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, greatly restricting the rights of non-Muslims, especially Christians.
Most disconcerting for Coptic Christians is that one in four Egyptians opted for the ultraconservative Salafists, whose interpretation of Islam derives from Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. In post-revolution Egypt, Salafists have been accused of committing several attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority, including the torching of a church and the killing of twelve Christians in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. Many Christians fear that laws instituted by Salafists will be similar to those enforced under the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Salafists want to apply the laws of early Islam from 1400 years ago in the 21st century,” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “They believe in cutting the hands off people who steal and stoning adulteress women. They are Wahhabis. If they rule Egypt, it will become like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Salafists are one of the largest threats to Christians in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is also very dangerous, but the difference is that Salafists don’t negotiate. They are straightforward. They want to kill.”
While Egyptians wait for the final two rounds of elections for the lower house, or People’s Assembly, which is scheduled to take place later this month and in January, there is little hope that results will improve for the country’s Christians and liberals. The votes in the electoral districts of Egypt’s two largest cities, which were predicted to have the greatest moderate support base, have already been counted.
“If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile?” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. “The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, "The worst fears of many Egyptian Christians and secularists are now becoming a reality. There was some hope that at least contending Islamist parties would steal seats from one another; however, that did not prove to be the case. Coming in second place, Salafists will drive the Muslim Brotherhood toward ultra-conservatism. The Brotherhood no longer needs to appear moderate when the majority of Egyptians have voted in favor of radical Islam and its natural end point, Sharia law. Sadly, Egyptian Christians are entering into a time of intense persecution."