The Al-Nour party also known as the Party of Light was founded after the Egyptian revolt of 2011 that brought down the government of Hosni Mubarak. It is a party of Salafis (Ashour), and it is the most popular and influential one as compared to Al-Sala and Al-Fadila. This popularity can be attributed to the expertise of its leaders (Brown). Salafi, to which the party of light belongs, originated in the 1980s from the students at Alexandria University that opposed the Muslim Brotherhood. Before the revolt, Salafis used to keep out of the politics arguing that the rule of that time was not Islamic. However, after the government of Morsi’s Brotherhood was overthrown, the Salafis decided to participate in the political life of the country in order to safeguard the interests of the Muslims.
Salafis created Al-Nour shortly after the 2011 revolution when the temporary military government allowed the formation of the new parties. The group is characterized by the strict Islamic beliefs (Abdul) and values the enforcement of the Sharia laws with the utmost strictness. The party became popular; in 2011 parliamentary elections, the Islamic voting bloc managed to earn 27.8% of the total votes (Brown). The party had forged the unity with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011 in order to succeed in putting in place a constitution that would favor the Islamic rule. However, in 2013, the party slowly cut its ties with the Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi and joined the opposition the same year in order to dethrone him (Kingsley). Since 2014, several petitions to dissolve the party have been dismissed by the Egyptian courts on the grounds of the lack of power to do the same (Yessef). The party has two membership types; affiliated membership that is given to the fresh members and full party membership, which is awarded after a probation process. The party was very influential in the Egyptian politics, and the influence was gained through the organized leadership and formation of the alliances with the other parties; these alliances contributed to the success of the Salafis. The paper considers the party’s ideology, structure, and relationship with the other parties.
Al-Nour is a modern conservative Islamic party, which upholds very strict Islamic doctrines of traditional Islam that Muhammad lived and practiced. Their views on the rule is derived from Quran; they believe that Sharia should be the source of the governing law (Abdul). The party’s wish was that the Egyptian laws were derived from the Islamic Sharia law; hence, it is obvious that it is a puritan Islamic party. This ideology was aimed at making Islam the state religion and consequent transformation of Egypt into an Islamic state. The aim of the party was to exclude the representatives of the other religions, for example, Christianity, from the national policy making and governance.
Political Role in Egypt
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During the rule of Hosni Mubarak, Salafis abstained from the politics and kept a low profile. However, after the 2011 revolution, they decided to form a political party in order to support and spread the political agenda of the Islamic religion. The party contributed to the instabilities in Egypt through different coups and demonstrations. After the revolt, they forged an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood but with a hidden agenda of passing a constitution that was purely Islamic. The party supported the Muslim Brotherhood; nevertheless, in 2012, when the constitution was passed, the former started to cut any ties with the latter and joined the opposition, which aimed to overthrow Morsi’s government. After the overthrow, Al-Nour opposed the attempts by the committee that was formed to amend the 2012 constitution to change some sections of the constitution, for instance, the Article 219 that stipulated that the Sharia laws would be the basis of the Egyptian law (“Salafist Nour Party Condemns Egypt Constitution”). The party further opposed the ban on the article that allowed the formation of the political parties on the religious basis. However, soon afterward, they started denying that Al-Nour was a religious party (“Salafist Nour Party Condemns Egypt Constitution”). The party contributed to the overthrow of Morsi in a bid to extend the control of the mosques and Islamic religious institutions.
Al-Nour has a Supreme Council consisting of thirty members, whose task is to manage the affairs of the party. The members of the Council are chosen by the General Assembly that consists of 150-200 representatives and party’s founding members from each governorate (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). The Supreme Council elects the chairperson of the party, the Secretary General, and heads of the other departments. Al-Nour is one of a few parties in Egypt that probe the new members before awarding them a full membership. The streamlined party leadership and structure were aimed at making the party run smoothly, and it could be the reason for why the party became very popular as compared to the other parties.
Relationship with the Other Parties
The party and Muslim Brotherhood were partners in the Democratic Alliance coalition, but the two differed over the candidature slots for their respective members (“Salafist Nour Party Condemns Egypt Constitution”). This difference was what led to breaking of the alliance; in 2013, the party joined the opposition in order to bring down Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Al-Sisi as the coming president. The party seems to have sinister motives when joining the alliances as it used such alliances as the stepping stones of spreading the Salafis’ interests. The case of the Al-Nour and Brotherhood Alliance is a vivid example.
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Position on the Important Issues
The party wanted a government to be a mix of the presidential and parliamentary systems (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). This idea did not satisfy the Muslim Brotherhood, with whom the Al-Nour had partnered in order to form the government after the 2011 revolution. The Brotherhood supported the presidential system, and it was another reason of why some cracks developed in their coalition. This stance led to the fallout between the party and Morsi’s government; further, it made the Al-Nour pull out of the coalition and join the opposition in order to topple the government.
The party supported that an effort to boost’s Egypt’s participation in international matters was necessary (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). Respecting of the treaties was another pillar named by the party. In particular, this stance aimed at strengthening the ties between Egypt and other Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. Good foreign relations especially with the Arabic countries was meant for granting a soliciting support from the same countries so that the party can spread the Islamic ideology and overthrow the government if it fails to satisfy the party’s initiatives.
The party stated that the Egyptian economy should be handled in line with the Islamic doctrines, which should also guide the laws on banking and loans. Therefore, the interest on loans was rejected by the party on the grounds that it was against the Islamic values (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). The protection of consumers by the government against the monopolistic tendencies was also greatly opposed by the party. The Al-Nour also advocated the improved national agricultural output in order to promote resilience against the famine, given that Egypt is prone to the dry weather. The adherents of the party demanded an increased funding for the research and industry in order to strengthen the Egyptian economy.
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The Al-Nour rejected trying of the civilians in the military courts as it was an obstacle to the politics of Egypt (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). The party further advocated setting free people detained on the political grounds, most of whom were Muslims. This effort was aimed at improving the conditions for the political activism and opposition. The stance was also an effort to secure the release of the party supporters, who had been arrested by the Egyptian military. The military was a threat to the activities of the party; therefore, the party wanted to restrain the military in order to help the Salafis further their Islamic ideologies with ease.
The party stood for the fair and equal income distribution among the Egyptian people (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). This stance was in contrary to what the other parties advocated. They demanded setting a minimum wage without due consideration of the needs of the poor or distribution of wealth. The Al-Nour’s position was in reference to the Islamic doctrine of zakat that obligated the rich to give out a part of their annual income to the poor.
State and Religion
The followers of the Al-Nour wanted Egypt to be identified as a Muslim state by making the national laws a subject to the Islamic Sharia law (“Salafist Nour Party Condemns Egypt Constitution”). This attempt was aimed at transforming Egypt from a secular to religious state free from the western influence. The adherents also believed that Islam was both the state and religion. The policy of the party aimed at reducing the influence of the western countries on Egypt and boosting the ties with the Middle East countries.
Workers’ Strikes and Labor Unions
According to the party, the workers have a right to strike, which is protected by both domestic and international law (“Salafist Nour Party: Will Vote ‘Yes’”). However, the party acknowledges that the strikes are not desirable at the transitional phase as it could harm the economy of Egypt at a time when the country was not economically stable due to the revolutions. As the party was interested in ruling Egypt, the members considered the workers’ strikes unwarranted as they could jeopardize the economy during their rule.
The Al-Nour as an Islamist party is beneficial for the Egyptians especially in terms of the economic policies, social justice, trials, issues of the workers, and foreign investment, among others. However, the same party had a sinister motive of spreading the Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt, as well as acquiring control over the religion. Although the party stood for the promotion of the national economy, basing the economic policies on the Sharia laws was not conducive to the economic growth. The overthrow of Morsi in 2013 further increased the influence that the party had on the government. Any political parties formed on the basis of religion are not desirable as it often leads to the oppression and persecution of the representative of the minority religion due to lower numerical strength. Consequently, the Al-Nour should have not been founded as it was an Islamic but not a pure political party.