Egypt Salafists warn against trying to wipe out Islamism

August 21, 2013

(Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi pray in front of a poster during a funeral for two people killed in recent clashes at Rabaa Adawiya Square, where they are camping in Nasr city area, east of Cairo August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

While security forces round up the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s second largest religious party has warned the state against trying to wipe out political Islam entirely during its toughest crackdown in decades.

The Nour Party, a Salafist group that backed the military’s removal of President Mohamed Mursi last month, is now also feeling the heat, its leader Younes Makhyoun told Reuters.

Members of his pacifist party – which follows an austere interpretation of Islam – have been beaten, harassed and turned over to the police in recent days, simply because they wear beards as a sign of their religious observance, he said.

With at least 900 people killed in a week, Makhyoun cautioned against an arbitrary campaign targeting Islamists, saying this would drive some underground. “This will be a dangerous path and make many disavow the tools of democracy, and perhaps resort to other methods,” he said in an interview.

Political Islam could not be “uprooted”, he added. “If anyone is thinking about excluding it, that is of the utmost stupidity.”

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