Salafis and Sufis in Egypt

Dec. 27, 2011, 3:15 p.m.

The Carnegie Endowment recently published a report on the political influence of Salafis and Sufis in Egypt's revolution and current elections. The paper suggests that extreme fundamentalist Salafis can be moderated if Salafi parties are allowed adequate political expression. Sufi interpretations of Islam have led to more secular and moderate politicial parties. These groups have performed poorly in the first round of elections. 

As expected, Egypt’s first parliamentary election after the overthrow of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak confirmed the popularity and organizational strength of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, which won 77 of the 156 parliamentary seats contested in the first electoral round. Surprisingly, it also revealed the unexpected strength of the Salafi alliance, dominated by the al-Nour party, which secured 33 seats. Much to the discomfort of secular Egyptians and Western governments, Islamist parties now dominate the Egyptian political scene. 

The spectrum of political Islam in Egypt is no longer limited to the Muslim Brotherhood and the parties that derived from it, such as the Brotherhood’s official Freedom and Justice Party and the Wasat Party, a Brotherhood splinter group. Instead, it now includes several conservative Salafi parties, of which al-Nour is by far the most prominent, and two Sufi political parties, Tahrir Al-Misri and Sawt Al-Hurriyya, both of which fared badly in the first round of elections. 

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