It was less than two weeks ago that General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, announced the removal of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in the wake of the largest mass protests the country had ever seen. On July 3, an alliance of liberals, leftists, Nasserists, revolutionary youth, Coptic Christians and Salafists appeared together on television for a harmonious group picture.
But the rare pact was fragile. When soldiers opened fire on protesting Morsi supporters last Monday and at least 51 people died, the Salafists of the Al-Nour Party, or Party of the Light, demonstratively revoked their cooperation with the transitional government — albeit only temporarily.
In fact, the Salafists need to maintain cooperation with the military and the transitional government in order to remain influential. Under Morsi’s presidency, they had the same problems as the secular opposition. They were marginalized, and important positions went to members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Now Bassam Sarka, the deputy party leader, has renewed his support for the state, saying that Al-Nour will “demonstrate responsibility” and “cooperate with the military to prevent worse things from happening.” The reward came quickly, when the military leaders decided to keep a controversial article in the constitution, whereby the principles of Sharia law are the “primary source of legislation” — despite the fact that the liberals had just rejected the very same article.
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