As the top two parties in the first two phases of Egypt’s parliamentary elections and expected to score a similar victory in the third phase, the two Islamist parties Freedom and Justice, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the ultra-conservative al-Nour party list have been under the limelight as concerns over the future of the country under Islamist rule keep rising.
Two representatives from both parties were invited by Al Arabiya in Cairo to answer questions, allay fears, and reiterate what they saw as non-debatable issues.
The issue of religious minorities and the way they are to be treated in case the Sharia (Islamic law) is applied was raised in the interview with Adel Abdul Maksoud Afifi, head of the Salafist al-Asala Party, which came second on al-Nour Party List, and Saad al-Husseini, member of the Freedom and Justice Party executive bureau.
“Before international laws came out, it was the sharia that granted Copts all their rights,” Afifi told Al Arabiya’s Parliament Race Monday.
However, Afifi added, Copts are still not allowed to become presidents or to run for presidency.
“The same applies to women.”
Afifi pointed out that the issue of applying the Sharia is the point of contention between Islamists and secularists and that the latter need to decide where they stand as far as this is concerned.
According to Husseini, all the 40 parties that ran in the parliamentary elections through the Freedom and Justice party list, also called the Democratic Alliance, agree that Islamic law should be the main source of legislation.
“The document issued by al-Azhar has this article, too, and even Christians agree to applying Islamic laws,” he told Parliament Race Monday.
Husseini explained that Islamic laws are the best guarantor of the rights of Copts.
“Through Islamic laws, Copts can resort to their own legislations and will have freedom of faith and the right to build churches. They will also be allowed to assume official positions.”
However, Husseini said, a Copt cannot become president.
“This is not fanaticism. There is a logical argument behind this.”
Husseini added that a big part of people’s apprehension over Islamist rule comes from the media rather than from Islamists themselves.
“There are several media outlets that have ulterior motives so they blow statements by Islamists out of proportion.”
When asked about the consumption of alcohol, Husseini stressed that drinking and selling alcohol are forbidden in Islam.
“Yet Islamic laws also prohibit spying on private places and this applies to beaches as well.”
Husseini added that other priorities take precedence over alcohol and beaches like food and medical care and fighting corruption and restoring security.
“This is what Islamic law tells us to do and even after we are done with all that, we won’t still be preoccupied with alcohol and beaches.”
Tourism, Husseini pointed out, is very important for Egypt.
“I wish 50 million tourists would travel to Egypt even if they come nude.”
As for the arts, Afifi, who studied music, said he is all for sophisticated art that serves society and mentioned opera in specific.
“As for the movie industry, it is not possible for a government to determine what films should be like because social problems cannot be solved through laws.”
Regarding the possibility of imposing certain codes of dress or behavior on Egyptians, Husseini said that this is not possible.
“You cannot force people to behave in a certain way because this falls under personal freedom and only God has the right to punish people for this.”
Husseini cited the example of his three sisters and three daughters who do not wear the face veil.
“They only donned the headscarf because they believed they should,” he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)