First polls deliver unexpected dilemma
Egypt’s elite uneasy at strong Islamist showing
CAIRO: For decades, Egypt’s Westernised elite kept the country’s growing religosity at arm’s length, but a projected Islamist surge in the first post-revolution polls has driven many to think of moving abroad.
Sporting the latest fashions and mingling in upmarket country clubs, Egypt’s rich fear victory for the Muslim Brotherhood and hardline Salafis in the first phase of parliamentary elections presages change ahead.
“I hope they don’t impose the veil and ban women from driving like in Saudi Arabia,” said coquettish 50-something Naglaa Fahmi from her gym in the leafy neighbourhood of Zamalek.
Nardine – one of Egypt’s eight million Coptic Christians who are alarmed by the prospect of a new Islamistdominated parliament – is pondering a move abroad. “My father is seriously thinking about sending me and my brothers elsewhere because he thinks we won’t have a future with the Salafis,” said the banker in her 20s.
Ten months after a popular uprising ended the 30- year autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak, millions of Egyptians embraced their new democratic freedoms this week at the start of multi-stage parliamentary elections.
The moderate Muslim Brotherhood has emerged as the dominant force, but with a surprisingly strong showing from the hardline al-nur party.
Its leaders advocate the fundamentalist brand of Salafi Islam, rejecting Western culture and favouring strict segregation of the sexes and the veiling of women. They say they have been the victims of Islamophobia and fear-mongering by liberals in the Egyptian media.
Nevertheless, the fear that they will try to impose their values on the rest of society has driven Angie to consider leaving her comfortable Cairo life. “My husband recently got a job offer in Dubai. In the beginning I was hesitant, but now I’m encouraging him to take the job and I’ll join him.”
For Ahmed Gabri, having the Islamists in power means having his freedoms restricted. “I will leave the country,” said Gabri, a Muslim. “Why don’t they just let people live the way they want?”
The next parliament will be charged with writing a new constitution and the idea of an Islamist-dominated assembly has sent shockwaves through some segments of society.
Many stress the difference, however, between the different Islamist groups. “It’s the not the Brotherhood that worries me, it’s the Salafis I’m concerned about,” said Manar, a blonde in her 40s. – SAPA-AFP
LET US BE FREE: Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration against the Egyptian military council in Tahrir square in Cairo. This week the country started going to the polls in a multi-phased parliamentary election process.