But what if voters use their new-found political freedom to vote for candidates who are expressly opposed to democracy and even the very electoral process they are attempting to ride to power? This is exactly what is happening with the unexpected electoral success of the Islamist Nur Party.
Most Egypt-watchers have been surprised by the electoral success of the Nur Party. Current estimates put the party's electoral gains at over 20% of the votes in the parliamentary elections, second only to the Muslim Brotherhood's (another hard-line Islamist party, which however knows better how to speak soothing words to the West) estimated 40-50%.
The Nur Party's long-standing opposition to democracy is well-known in Egypt. See the below 2010 video from one of its leaders--popular tele-shaykh 'Abd-al-Mun'im al-Shahat--who was himself a candidate for parliament in the Alexandria region:
This is not just some embarrassing clip from long ago which was brought up in the electoral process in order to derail al-Shahat's campaign. When asked about his position on democracy and elections just a few weeks ago, al-Shahat responded that he continues to maintain the same opinion, namely that democracy is "disbelief in Allah (kufr) and forbidden (haraam)." However, to justify his candidacy in the elections, he offered his opinion that "Egyptian-style democracy is permissible, while Western democracy is disbelief in Allah" (2).
Perhaps explaining what al-Shahat meant by 'Western democracy,' other Nur Party candidates have affirmed that "the understanding of democracy with the meaning of people ruling themselves is disbelief in Allah." They also went further, arguing that democracy was merely "Masonic-Jewish propaganda" (3). One of the candidates also praised Saudi Arabia's application of Shari'ah-law penalties, which are generally much harsher than what Egypt experienced under Mubarak.
So the question remains: if citizens use their freedom to elect tyrants worse than the one they overthrew, can that really be counted as progress?
2) Translated from Arabic-language article at Masrawy.com, 1 December 2011:
Representative 'Abd-al-Mun'im al-Shahat: Democracy Is Still Forbidden
'Abd-al-Mun'im al-Shahat, a spokesman for there's da'wa salafiya, announced that he still holds the opinion which he declared a short time ago, that democracy is forbidden (haraam) and disbelief (kufr). He declared at the same time that democracy is the only means for solving the political differences in order to preserve the cohesion of the society.
After playing the video which shows al-Shahat declaring at a previous time that democracy is disbelief (kufr) and forbidden (haraam), (media personality) Dina ('Abd-al-Fatah) asked al-Shahat his opinion about this after he was about to win the election. Al-Shahat responded that he continues to hold the same opinion.
Al-Shahat said in an interview with media personality Dina 'Abd-al-Fatah on the satellite station al-Tahrir, that all of the electoral indicators show that he is ahead of his opponents, and has gained more than 60% of the votes in the Montazah Department in Alexandria.
The spokesman for the Salafi Call (ad-da'wa as-salafiya) does not believe that his entrance into Parliament despite his declaration that democracy is forbidden is political opportunism. He pointed out that he believes that Egyptian-style democracy is permissible, while Western democracy is disbelief in Allah.
Al-Shahat also believes that the cause for him leading his opponents in the elections owes to his religious and political background, as well as his participation in various debates and seminars.
3) Translated from Arabic-language article at al-Masry al-Youm, 8 December 2011:
Nur Party Candidates: Democracy is 'Kufr' ... and Propaganda from the Masonic Bloc ... We Should Return to "al-Bay'a"
A number of leaders and candidates from the Nur Party in the Department of North Giza (Egypt) stressed that the understanding of democracy with the meaning of the people ruling themselves is disbelief (kufr) in Allah. They believe that the political elite "are opposed to what the apostles followed" in relying upon the system of allegiance (al-bay'a) after the death of the Apostle, in order to choose the caliph for the Muslims.
In an electoral meeting which they held Wednesday night in a hall attached to the Eastern Mosque in Barajil province, they described ads in the streets from the Egyptian Bloc as "Masonic-Jewish ads." Shaykh Sha'ban Darwish--a member of the Nur Party High Council--stressed the need to change the philosophy of the current liberal system which the last two presidents, Sadat and Mubarak, produced, and which failed to promote the state to an Islamic system.
Darwish said: "If the Salafis strike the earth, it will bring forth money. The liberals should be ashamed of themselves and remove themselves from politics through the ballot box, because they caused corruption in the land over the last 60 years. Now they want to preserve their interests and benefits, which are connected to the Americans and the West."
Dr. 'Adil 'Azazi, who is at the head of the Nur Party list in the Department of North Giza, said: "Leaving the ruling to the people, or what is called democracy, is disbelief (kufr) in Allah." He pointed to the need to rely upon the system of allegiance (al-bay'a) to choose the caliphs of the Muslims. 'Azazi added that Islamic laws applied in Saudi Arabia, and especially in applying the penalties of the Islamic Shari'ah, have contributed to a decrease in crime.