Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, emerging as the biggest winner in the first round of parliamentary elections, is seeking to reassure Egyptians that it would not sacrifice personal freedoms in promoting Islamic law.
The deputy head of the Brotherhood’s new political party, Essam el-Erian, said in a telephone interview on Saturday that the group is not interested in imposing Islamic values on Egypt, home to a sizable Christian minority and others who object to being subject to strict Islamic codes.
“We represent a moderate and fair party,” el-Erian said of his Freedom and Justice Party. “We want to apply the basics of Shariah law in a fair way that respects human rights and personal rights,” he said, referring to Islamic law.
The comments were the clearest indication that the Brotherhood was distancing itself from the ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, which appears to have won the second-largest share of votes in the election’s first phase.
The Nour Party espouses a strict interpretation of Islam similar to that of Saudi Arabia, where the sexes are segregated and women must be veiled and are barred from driving.
Egypt’s election commission has released few official results from the voting on Monday and Tuesday. However, preliminary counts have been leaked by judges and individual political groups, showing both parties could together control a majority of seats in the lower house of parliament if they did form an alliance.
The Brotherhood recently denied in a statement that it seeks to form an alliance with the Nour Party in parliament, calling it “premature and mere media speculation.”
On Saturday, el-Erian made it clear that the Brotherhood does not share Nour’s more hardline aspirations to strictly enforce Islamic codes in Egyptians’ daily lives.
“We respect all people in their choice of religion and life,” he said.
Another major check on such an agenda is the council of generals who have run the country since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February. The military council, accused by Egypt’s protest movement of stalling a transition to civilian and democratic rule, is seeking to limit the powers of the next parliament and maintain close oversight over the drafting of a new constitution.
Egypt already uses Shariah law as the basis for legislation, however Egyptian laws remain largely secular.
On its Twitter account, the Brotherhood said that its priorities were to fix Egypt’s economy and improve the lives of ordinary Egyptians, “not to change [the] face of Egypt into [an] Islamic state.”
El-Erian urged the Brotherhood’s political rivals to accept the election results.
“We all believe that our success as Egyptians toward democracy is a real success and we want everyone to accept this democratic system. This is the guarantee for stability,” he said.