Sufi party demands probe into Egypt's Salafist Nour Party

Ahram Online , Sunday 18 Jan 2015

Historically, relations between Sufis and Salafists have been sour, with the latter accusing the former of engaging in un-Islamic rites and rituals

The Egyptian Sufi Al-Nasr Party demanded Sunday investigations into the funding of the ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nour Party and a clear position on their views on Egypt's Coptic Christians.

In the wake of the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, in late 2013, the Nour Party and Al-Nasr Party became two dominant religion-based groups in Egypt's political scene.

However, Al-Nour Party is more popular and has a much wider base. Sufis were traditionally known to be apolitical until 2011.

In a press statement, El-Nasr Party demanded the Nour Party declare their position on Egypt's Coptic Christians, who are the main Christian sect in Egypt and the country's largest minority. Copts are estimated to make up anywhere from ten to 15 percent of Egypt's 87 million population, though precise figures are not disclosed by the government.

The statement praised President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's visit to the Coptic Cathedral during Christmas mass. El-Sisi's historic visit is the first by an Egyptian president to a Coptic mass.

Leading Nour Party member Ashraf Thabet told Ahram Online that the party's position on Copts will be "apparent in the upcoming [parliamentary] elections."

"We have Copts in the party, and we have Copts running [in the elections] on the party's lists," Thabet stated.

On El-Sisi's visit to the Coptic Cathedral, Thabet said the party would not comment on the president's decisions and choices. He added that the visit "was not political and doesn't involve the Nour Party."

Al-Nasr Party also demanded that the minister of endowments investigate the funding of the Nour Party whose members, according to the statement, have seen their "fortunes amplified."

On the party's funding, Thabet said the Nour Party has the least funding compared to other political parties. The Nour Party's funding comes from donations from leading party figures as well as members, Thabet added.

The Nour Party announced earlier that they wouldn't fund their candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place on two stages in March and April.

The Nour Party occupied the second highest number of seats in the 2012 parliament, Egypt's last parliament, before it was dissolved.

Historically, relations between Sufis and Salafists have been sour, with Salafists claiming that Sufi rites and practices are un-Islamic.

This feud materialised into direct action when Salafists destroyed a number of Sufi shrines in 2011.

*This story had earlier mentioned the number of copts in Egypt as 15% of the population. This has been corrected.

Short link: