Internal feuds are threatening to unravel the political party of Egypt’s ultraconservative Islamist Salafis, as pragmatists try to shake off the control of hardline clerics who reject any compromise in their stark, puritanical version of Islam.
The fight for leadership could paralyze the Al-Nour Party, which rocketed out of nowhere to become Egypt’s second most powerful political force, behind the Muslim Brotherhood. Together, the Brotherhood and Al-Nour embodied the rise of Islamists to prominence after last year’s fall of Hosni Mubarak.
It also underlines the key dilemma in the project of political Islam — what to do when the maneuverings of democratic politics collide with demands for strict purity of religious ideology, particularly the unbending, black-and-white doctrine of the Salafis. Infighting among the Salafis could discredit their aims of radical Islamization of Egypt in the eyes of some Egyptians who saw the movement as pious and uncorrupt, calling for strict adherence to the Quran and the ways of the Prophet Muhammad.