Egypt: Here come the Salafists

The fresh scrawls are the work of Islamists who are emerging from the fringes of Egyptian society with zeal and swagger. Their graffiti and billboards calling for a more conservative Egypt have become pervasive here in recent months, part of a rapidly growing debate about what should emerge from a revolution that toppled an autocratic leader and unleashed long-subdued social and political forces.

“There is going to be a battle between two visions for Egypt,” said Abdel Moneim El-Shahat, a leader in Egypt’s fundamentalist Salafist movement, whose members spent long years in jail under President Hosni Mubarak…

No one — not even budding Salafist politicians — is predicting a windfall on election day for the movement, which includes leaders who profess admiration for slain al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But Shahat and other influential Salafists say they intend to play a key role in the drafting of a new constitution to ensure it reflects a strict interpretation of Islamic law.