Nour’s Quiet Dissenters

From the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a lucid article explaining the current situation of the Salafi Nour Party.

Having backed the popularly-led military overthrow of President Morsi, the party ensured at least its short- to mid-term survival, and did not go the way of the Brotherhood. But in doing so they have fractured their internal cohesion and invited the derision of many Islamists, their natural constituency. The results of their gamble remain to be witnessed, likely in upcoming parliamentary elections.

But here is an interesting excerpt about leadership in the Salafa Dawa, the socio-religious preaching association that gave rise to the Nour Party:

The movement’s controversial support for the military has also heightened internal divisions. The initial division that weakened the movement followed a disagreement between Emad Abdel Ghaffour, the former leader of the Nour Party, and Yasser Borhami, deputy head of the Salafi Dawa, that led to the former splitting off to form his own Watan Party in January 2013. Nour’s backing of the military and the crackdown on the Brotherhood deepened the rifts between those remaining in the party. A number of the original founders of the Salafi Dawa have stopped attending its meetings, such as Dr. Said Abdel-Azeem, who before June 30 had announced that he believed in “the legitimacy of President Mohammed Morsi.” Abdel-Azeem stayed the course after July 3 and appeared on the speakers’ podium at the Rabia al-Adawiya protest repeatedly; he has been against the Nour Party’s support of the military since the crisis between Nour and the Brotherhood began in January 2013. Dr. Mohammed Ismail al-Muqaddam has also been absent from the movement since July 3, declining to appear in public or speak about politics.

Even more illustrative of the fragmentation within the Salafi leadership is the sermon given by prominent Salafi figure Dr. Ahmed Farid at a mosque in the Amiriyya district of Alexandria on February 28, in which he called for “returning to our origin.” He added that “for 40 years, we have wanted to return to missionary work (al-dawa) and forget politics,” even though only a few days earlier he himself had participated in a political conference supporting the latest constitution. Even though a majority of the Salafi Dawa leadership is sympathetic to these dissenters, Borhami, the most powerful figure in the movement, continues his efforts to convince his followers that the political Salafi Dawa organization is emerging from the current crisis stronger than before. Borhami has sent his pupils and followers throughout Egypt’s provinces to rally Nour Party supporters and convince them of the wisdom of nominally condemning the use of violence against pro-Brotherhood protesters while tacitly accepting it by supporting the military regime, including Nour’s recent endorsement of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for president and calls for their followers to vote for him.

I have no evidence to the contrary, but I am curious how the author judges the majority to be sympathetic to dissenters. Is it an emotional sympathy, or something more? If more, might they be letting Borhami take the lead, watching to see what happens, but ready to let him take the fall if necessary?

Under this speculation, ‘if necessary’ could come from two directions. The first, as the author makes clear, is the possibility that Nour Party support for the transition may still not be enough to preserve their political presence. If they are denied a continuing place in politics under Article 74 of the new constitution, Borhami would be the one to hold accountable.

Less likely, but still the goal of many Brotherhood-sympathetic Islamists, is that the military overthrow of Morsi might still be reversed. If so, Borhami could be highlighted as the traitor while those keeping quiet now quickly seek to mend fences.

In any case, the interactions are fascinating. Read the full article linked above to get a good overview of the situation.

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