In his first speech as the new chairman of the Salafist Nour Party, Younes Makhioun stressed that Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims are equal citizens.
"They are our partners in the nation," Makhioun said during the televised meeting held in the conference rooms of Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar religious institution, located in Cairo’s Nasr City district.
"The Salafists have always been used as a scarecrow for Copts, but I assure all Christians that they will live peacefully and in accordance to their own religion teachings."
A number of Salafist figures have recently released comments that were widely deemed offensive to Copts, including influential cleric Yasser El-Borhami, one of the founders of the Salafist Calling preaching movement which initially launched the Nour Party in 2011.
To reassure Copts, Makhion evoked memories of the January 25 Revolution, which toppled former president Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.
"During the revolution, we saw Muslims and Copts standing side by side. Copts were protecting mosques and Muslims were protecting churches, which shows there are no hostilities between them," he added.
Makhioun is a former member of the now-dissolved People's Assembly (the lower house of Egypt's parliament) and part of the Nour Party's supreme committee.
Six other candidates initially planned to contest the position but all of them eventually announced their withdrawal from the race.
The Nour Party was previously led by Emad Abdel-Ghafour, who had represented the party's 'reformist' camp.
Abdel-Ghafour quit the party in late December following a dispute with followers Yasser El-Borhami. He currently heads up the newly-formed Salafist Al-Watan Party.