Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party met on Saturday to discuss
new law proposals while the leader of the Salafist Al-Nour party officially
resigned to form a new party named Al-Watan. This comes after the Algerian paper
El-Khabar reported that the Muslim Brotherhood has a strategy to create
divisions amongst the Salafists.
The Egyptian paper Al-Ahram reported
that the Muslim Brotherhood Freedom and Justice party met to discuss new
legislation for the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament (Shura
Council). The recently approved constitution calls for the Shura Council to
control the legislative process until a new People’s Assembly is elected in a
couple of months. This comes as Al-Nour broke apart, with its chairman, Abdel
Ghafour, resigning to establish Al-Watan.
According to a report on
Thursday by El-Khabar, the newly established Salafist Umma Party, headed by the
disqualified Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail,
will run together with the Salafist Call party in the coming parliamentary
elections under the name Al-Watan.
The same report said that a top Muslim
Brotherhood official, Khairat al-Shater, who was the first Muslim Brotherhood
candidate for the presidency before being disqualified, had plans to overthrow
the Salafist Front in Alexandria, which is led by Yasser Borhamy and the Al-Nour
party. Al-Nour is considered the strongest competitor to the Muslim
The Algerian paper reports that after Al-Nour refused to
ally with the Muslim Brotherhood for the upcoming parliamentary elections,
Shater decided to move against it.
According to this report, Shater’s
actions are what led to the breakup of Al-Nour and the resignation of Ghafour,
who then went and formed the Al-Watan party. These actions also allegedly led to
the establishment by Ismail of the Umma party. Thus, the Muslim Brotherhood was
able to split and weaken its Salafist rival.
There were rumors for some
time of strife between the two leaders of Al-Nour, Ghafour and Borhamy. Al-Ahram
writes that a truce was agreed between the two parties to avoid a split, but in
the end the largest Islamist party after the Muslim Brotherhood broke
Already, 150 members have publicly quit the party.
internal friction between Islamist parties, they were able to unite behind
President Mohamed Morsi against the opposition during the constitutional
As an article entitled “Unholy alliance” in the Al-Ahram Weekly noted, “Islamists from across the spectrum argue that their
alliance was only a response to the opposition ganging up in what appeared to be
a united front with the sole goal of bringing down an elected president and
destroying state institutions. Islamist figures viewed the opposition’s
escalation against President Morsi as amounting to a ‘declaration of war’ in the
words of Tarek Al-Zomor, head of the political bureau of the Construction and
Development Party, the political wing of Al- Gamaa Al-Islamiya. ‘The liberal and
secular forces were the first to declare war on Islamists by forming this
front,’ said Al-Zomor, but, he continued, ‘they did the Islamist forces a great
favour when they made us unite under the banner of Islam.’”
The article went on
to argue that the positive results from the constitutional referendum have given
Islamists an extra boost as they feel even more confidence in pursuing their
agenda. The Coalition of Islamist Forces united 19 separate political parties
and groups. Shater was also one of the main strategists behind this coalition,
which threatened Morsi’s opponents, calling for supporters to take to the
However, underlying tensions were always present between the
Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood. As the Al-Ahram article noted, the Al-Nour party back in August protested against its small representation in Morsi’s
cabinet and did not participate in a pro-Morsi rally organized by the Muslim
Reuters contributed to this report.