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Egypt’s Salafi Challenge

CAIRO – “We want democracy, but one constrained by God’s laws. Ruling without God’s laws is infidelity,” Yasser Burhami, the second leading figure in the Salafi Call Society (SCS) and its most charismatic leader, recently said. The unexpected rise of the Salafis in Egypt’s parliamentary election has fueled concern that the most populous Sunni Arab country could be on its way to becoming a fundamentalist theocracy akin to Shia Iran.

Known for its social ultra-conservatism, literal and strict interpretation of Islam, and potential exclusion of the ideological and religious “other,” the Salafi “Coalition for Egypt,” otherwise known as the Islamic Coalition, won a total of 34 seats in the parliament elected to draft Egypt’s new constitution. This is in addition to the 78 seats won by the Democratic Coalition, led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).