Saturday, November 10, 2012

Understanding Yesterday’s Pro-Shariah Protest

Once again, Tahrir was almost full of hardcore Islamists demanding the imposition of the puritanical version of Shariah. Islamist groups, mostly Salafis, amassed thousands of their followers from various poor governorates outside Cairo to pressure Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president to implement what they believe to be God’s law.

Yesterday’s crowd was big, but it still did not reach the level of previous Islamist rallies. The two major Islamist parties, the MB and the Salafi Nour party, did not participate and this fact explains the real motive behind those who were in Tahrir yesterday.

The MB and Nour party are by far the two major Islamist parties involved in ruling post Mubarak Egypt. The Nour party was struck with various divisions but they remain to be the most organized Salafi party. They are currently trying to manage their uneasy relationship with the MB and try to extract as much political benefits as possible. The Nour party became the sole representative of the Salafi current in Egyptian politics. When the US ambassador wants to meet the Salafis, she goes to the Nour party.

This explains what happened in Tahrir. It was much more than a group of parties calling for Shariah. What we saw yesterday was a show of power by those fringe Islamist parties that did not benefit much from post revolution Egypt. It was their way of telling us “hey, we are here. Don’t think the MB and Nour are the only big guys here, we are big too and we managed to fill Tahrir”. Yesterday’s crowd included Hazem Abu Ismael, the presidential candidate who got delisted because his mother held dual nationality. Yesterday was his come back.

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