This online article was featured in Terra Santa on 2 may 2012
Concerns Grow Over Possible Islamist Victory in Egyptian Elections
(Milan/e.p.) – As Egypt’s presidential election approaches and an Islamist candidate receives a boost to his campaign, fears are growing the country’s Christians could face an increase in persecution under a new regime.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, a British member of the House of Lords and honorary president of the British Coptic Association, has stressed that Egypt’s next President has a duty to “redress the inherent discrimination within Egypt” or it risks descending into violence and sectarianism.
“A true, pluralist democracy must rigorously defend the freedom of religion for all its citizens,” he told the Rome-based Dignitatis Humanae Institute April 27th. “For too long, Mubarak’s regime waged an overt campaign to purge Egypt of its Christian heritage. If Egypt does not take this opportunity to turn away from this path, a further descent into violence and sectarianism will surely follow.”
On Thursday 26th, Egypt’s election commission released the final list of 13 candidates eligible to run in next month’s presidential election, the first since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, the former president, last year.
The list includes Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak, who was disqualified but then reinstated this week; Amr Moussa, former foreign minister and ex-head of the Arab League; Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, an independent Islamist moderate; and Mohammed Morsi, chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
Morsi received a boost last week when he was endorsed on Wednesday by a group of ultraconservative Muslim clerics which comprise mainly of Salafists, members of an Islamist sect. Together with the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamists have emerged as an important power brokers in the country and, since the fall of the Mubarak regime, have a large majority in parliament and wield considerable power in Egyptian society.
For the Christian Copts amounting to 10% of the population, Morsi’s possible victory has sparked fears that the interests of non-Muslim minorities will be disregarded in favour of a stricter application of Shariah Law.
Morsi re-introduced the former Muslim Brotherhood slogan ‘Islam is the solution’, once called for an Islamic scholar’s council to determine legislation, and advocated the exclusion of women and non-Muslims from political office.
Egypt’s Coptic population have long lived in fear and persecution: under Mubarak, they were excluded from government positions and faced limits on Church construction.
But according to AP, the moderate Islamist candidate, Abol Fotouh, may now receive backing from supporters of the Salafist al-Nour party, splitting the Islamist vote. Some Salafis are also said to be wary of the Brotherhood’s strong organization and worry about its tendencies to monopolize power.
Morsi is also looked upon unfavourably by some Islamists as he negotiated with a Mubarak regime that brutally repressed the Brotherhood for decades. He was the Brotherhood’s second choice as a candidate. The Islamist group initially preferred to field its top strategist and deputy leader, Khairat el-Shater but he was disqualified by the election commission because of a past imprisonment.
Seen as a weaker candidate who may not be able to rally enough Islamists behind him, Morsi is nevertheless said to be representative of the Brotherhood’s ideologically intolerant and internally dictatorial nature.
The Presidential elections are set for May 23 and 24 with a runoff scheduled in June.