The Brotherhood-Salafist axis: Is the honeymoon over?

Sarah El-Rashidi, Thursday 3 May 2012

Salafist Nour Party spokesman clarifies reasons behind seeming political divergences between Egypt's two most formidable Islamist parties

Nader Bakkar
File image of Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafist Nour Party have shared a significant rapport since last year's ouster of the Mubarak regime. Some political observers, however, have begun questioning whether the relationship – recently bolstered by shared parliamentary victories – has begun to fray, given clear ideological disparities between the two parties.

The first hint of a rift was seen when the Nour Party voiced opposition to the FJP’s demand for the immediate dismissal of the military-appointed government of Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri.

“We, too, demand that the military council hand over power [to a civilian administration] in June," Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar told Ahram Online. "But until then, it's both impractical and futile to demand the government's dismissal, especially at such a critical time with presidential elections around the corner."

Bakkar added that, even though the El-Ganzouri government had failed in several respects, it was more effective to help his interim government implement modest changes in the short time it had left.

Another issue that has prompted speculation about the growing divergence between the two movements relates to the Nour Party’s decision on 28 April to back presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh at the expense of Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi.  

“We believe Abul-Fotouh can draw more voters, given his independence from any political party," said Bakkar. "The Nour Party is looking for an independent executive of an Islamic background.”

What's more, the Salafist party believes it will be difficult to market Morsi to the majority of Egyptians, given the multifaceted nature of Egyptian society. It sees Abul-Fotouh as more "representative" of Egypt's diverse population.

Yet despite these differences, Nour Party officials say the relationship remains cordial.

"Although we have different Islamic ideologies and differ on day-to-day political tactics, we're of the same Islamic background," said Bakkar. "Ultimately, our long-term goals are the same.”

He added: "We stand with the Brotherhood in facing injustice, although we each have our own opinions on specific issues.”  

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