War Between al-Nour Party and Muslim Brotherhood Reaches Sinai

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Egyptian Salafi demonstrators attend a unity rally in downtown Cairo. AFP/Khaled Desouki

By: Mohammed Salem

Published Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The one-year-long hidden conflict between Egypt’s Salafi political party, al-Nour, and the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood continues, even if its intensity is somewhat diminished. Most recently, the conflict appeared in northern Sinai in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Sinai – The crisis between al-Nour and the Muslim Brotherhood first erupted after the incidents of June 30, when Egyptian minister of defense at the time and current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi banned the Muslim Brotherhood from the political scene, as Salafis from al-Nour took part in the “bone-breaking battle.”

The Salafi party denied any association to the Muslim Brotherhood at the time, inciting outrage among supporters of the Brotherhood in Egypt and abroad. And thus an almost covert conflict began, ending the “love affair” between the groups’ respective leaders.

The current crisis in Sinai started with calls for a protest that was slated for November 28 — labeled "The Muslim Youth Uprising.” While the Muslim Brotherhood mobilized its supporters to take part in the protest, the al-Nour Party countered these calls by urging citizens to stay at home. On that day, the Muslim Brothers went as far as tearing down al-Nour’s banners that promoted the “Our Egypt Without Violence” campaign, and accused Salafis of treason.

The conflict cooled down for a while but, according to sources in the Brotherhood, the Salafi party continued to turn citizens against the Muslim Brotherhood, calling on the aid of security forces, slandering Brotherhood members who were not wanted or known, leading to their arrest. The sources added that leaders of the Salafi group in North Sinai also reported activities and events launched by the Brotherhood in the backstreets of al-Arish region to security forces.

In the light of these events, the spike in the dispute seems related to political activities, especially the upcoming parliamentary elections. Al-Nour party leaders have been trying to gain the support of sheikhs and prominent tribal figures in order to bolster previous leaders and candidates of the 2012 parliament. This includes Kamal al-Ahtam, a former policeman who resigned from his position before deciding to join al-Nour near the end of 2011. Muslim Brotherhood members consequently burned his car, parked in front of his house on al-Ayyub Street in al-Arish, sending out the first loud and clear message of war between the two sides.

The conflict didn’t end there. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, sources confirmed that tribal leaders affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood consulted with a number of young tribe members, convincing them to run in the 2014 parliamentary elections in the three North Sinai electoral districts. These leaders also volunteered to cover the costs of the electoral campaigns, aiming to foil al-Nour’s electoral plan. The Salafi party was outraged by these attempts, and immediately submitted the names of the young figures designated by the Brotherhood-affiliated tribal leaders to Fouad Osman, head of security in North Sinai.

Even though North Sinai is a major electoral region, it is no longer as important as other regions, given the decreasing number of voters compared to other Egyptian provinces. Candidates, therefore, tried to gain more votes, winning over general figures from the biggest provinces, intensifying the competition. Meanwhile, only women and disabled people were taken into account in Sinai, for the province must be represented by seats reserved for these groups. The division of districts was also disappointing, since it did not take Sinai’s size into consideration. While North Sinai was previously entitled to six elected members of parliament, and a seventh appointed one, it now only has four individual MPs and a fifth enlisted representative, which marks a decline in parliamentary influence. This division (into three districts and 10 sections) also failed to consider the security situation in Sinai, and the tribal aspect of its demography, which has disturbed the peace in the region. Indeed, the old division of districts in the province had hardly managed to temper tribal conflicts.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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