By Mina Ibrahim
The “No to Religious Parties” campaign group announced it collected 1.25m signatures at a press conference it held Sunday in Downtown Cairo to reveal its achievements one week before the beginning of the first round of the parliamentary elections.
The conference saw the presence of some of the campaign founders, in addition to a number of public figures who form its advisory board.
Amr Aly, a member of the advisory board, said he will file a case against the 12 political parties founded on religious bases. He added that these parties are “illegal” according to the current Egyptian constitution.
Article 74 of the 2013 Egyptian constitution states that all citizens have the right to form political parties as regulated by law. However, it adds: “No political activity may be practiced and no political parties may be formed on the basis of religion or discrimination based on sex, or origin, or on a sectarian basis or due to geographic location.”
The conference highlighted the violence that was believed to be committed by the Muslim Brotherhood following the 30 June demonstrations that was followed by the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.
“We call on Egyptians not to elect these Parties so as not to repeat what happened during the previous elections,” said Aly, who confirmed that these parties continue the legacy of the Freedom and Justice Paty (FJP), the political arm of the Brotherhood.
During the 2012/2013 Parliamentary elections, Islamist parties won the majority of the seats, at the expense of liberal and leftist parties.
Mohamed Attiya, coordinator of the campaign, said they gathered 1.25m electronic and hand-written signatures on the petition against the Islamist parties.
“Even after the parliamentary elections, we can still continue our case against the Islamist parties. The members of these parties will be replaced by others after we win the case,” said Attiya.
He called on the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) to investigate the violations committed by parties such as the Al-Nour, the Building and Development, and Al-Wasat parties during their electoral campaigns.
The conference also called on Al-Azhar, Egypt’s official authority on Sunni Islam, to increase its control over mosques, as they “continue to be used by Islamist parties to campaign for their members”.
The Salafi Sheikh Osama El-Kousy called on Al-Nour Party and its affiliated Salafi Call (Daawa Salafiya) to separate between politics and religion. El-Kousy said Europe did not develop except when the Church was separated from the state.
“If you want to practice politics, you have right-wing, left-wing, and moderate parties. If you want to practice religion, there are three official institutions: Dar Al-Ifta, Al-Azhar, and the Islamic Research Complex. Practicing politics in religious parties is unacceptable because you are deforming the image of Islam,” he said.
Since the ouster of Morsi in 2013, the Al-Nour Party stands as the only active Islamist party in the Egyptian political scene. It has been facing many lawsuits from groups and individual lawyers. More than three lawsuits were filed against the party, with its representatives defending their position as a party for all Egyptians.
The party is participating in the upcoming elections with tens of candidates. It has recently been attacked by civilian parties, accusing them of being the “hidden hand of the Muslim Brotherhood”. However, the party usually respond by saying it is not a religious party, and that it welcomes Christians to join its ranks.