After months of reassuring secularist critics, Islamist politicians in Tunisia and Egypt have begun to lay down markers about how Muslim their states should be — and first signs show they want more religion than previously admitted. Islamist parties swept the first free elections in both countries in recent months after campaigns that stressed their readiness to work with the secularists they struggled with in the Arab Spring revolts against decades-long dictatorships.
With political deadlines looming, a key Tunisian party in the constituent assembly and the head of Egypt’s influential Muslim Brotherhood both made statements this week revealing a stronger emphasis on Islam in government.
Popular List, the party tasked with writing Tunisia’s new constitution, announced on Monday its draft called Islam “the principle source of legislation” – a phrase denoting laws based on the sharia moral and legal code.
On Tuesday, Egyptian Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said his group wanted a president with “an Islamic background.” That term is vague, but not as vague as the conciliatory “consensus candidate” talk heard from most parties until now.