Islamists' rise in Egypt elections causes fear in Cairo and abroad (VIDEO)


Egyptian supporters of the ruler military council wear army berets as they rally in Abassya in Cairo on December 2, 2011.


Mahmud Khaled

Early results from the Egyptian elections reportedly show Islamists winning a clear majority in any the new parliament at the expense of the liberal activist groups that led the uprising against Hosni Mubarak.

Al Hayat newspaper reported that the Islamists' big win in the first round of Egyptian legislative elections has caused "worry and discomfort" inside the ruling military council.

The paper cites a source as saying that regardless of the final election results, the military "will not give up two things: the position of the military in the new constitution, and [the preservation of] a civil state in Egypt." 

The Muslim Brotherhood — an Islamist party poised to take the biggest share of votes, or around 40 percent, according to the AP — has sought to reassure Egyptians "that it will not sacrifice personal freedoms in promoting Islamic law."

Essam el-Erian, a deputy in the Brotherhood's new political party, told the AP that the group was not interested in imposing Islamic values on Egyptians, many of whom are Christian or secular.

"We represent a moderate and fair party," el-Erian reportedly said of his Freedom and Justice Party. "We want to apply the basics of Shariah [Islamic] law in a fair way that respects human rights and personal rights."

It blames "divisions among liberal parties, as well as their having been too busy confronting the military council" for the Islamists' success at the polls.

Fears remain, however, that whoever wins the election could "steer a key U.S. ally" toward becoming an Islamic state," The Associated Press reported.

Ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis, whose coalition of parties is running second behind the Freedom and Justice Party have already outlined plans "for a strict brand of religious law" according to The New York Times.

The paper reported that the Islamists would seek could limit personal freedoms — "demanding strict prohibitions against interest-bearing loans, alcohol and “fornication,” with traditional Islamic corporal punishment like stoning for adultery." 

"I want to say: citizenship restricted by Islamic Shariah, freedom restricted by Islamic Shariah, equality restricted by Islamic Shariah," the Salafist leader Sheik Abdel Moneim el-Shahat reportedly said in a public debate. "Shariah is obligatory, not just the principles — freedom and justice and all that." 

A spokesman for the Nour Party, which according to the AP espouses a strict interpretation of Islam in which democracy is subordinate to the Quran — and which could win a quarter of the house —  said his party considered God's law the only law.

"In the land of Islam, I can't let people decide what is permissible or what is prohibited," Hamad told the AP. "It is God who gives the answers as to what is right and what is wrong." 

Al-Hayat, meantime, quotes a source as saying: 

"Even though the military has accepted the election results as a reflection of the voters’ will, an air of anxiety is present inside the military institution, especially that Islamists seem to have a bigger chance at winning in the second and third phases and in the run-off rounds."