But members walk a fine line while trying to show they are willing to compromise and cooperate to the world and potential liberal partners while avoiding moves that could alienate their ultraconservative base. Nader Bakkar, a party spokesman, said the party does not intend to enter binding alliances with other political parties because it would compromise its Islamic principles.
“Often the liberal stream is very difficult to convince that we can find common ground on some points,” Bakkar said. “We are related to an ideology that is very clear, the Islamic ideology, but at the same time we are working for the best of our country and this is our common point.”
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter comments on Egypt's election process. Carter inspected polling sites and vote-counting stations during a five day visit to Egypt. (Jan. 13)
While public health and restarting the economy and services will be high on the agenda of the Nour Party, the institution of Islamic law is among its top priorities during the constitutional writing process, Bakkar said. He said the party favored the prohibition on the sale of alcohol to Muslims, though tourists would be permitted to bring it into the country and drink in hotel rooms. He said the party believed that women should be strongly encouraged to cover their hair in the Islamic tradition but would not be forced to do so.
Members have reached out to major liberal parties and figures, including the historic liberal party, Wafd, and the Free Egyptians, a secular party that has been most critical of the group. But the talks have so far failed to bloom, Nour Party members said, because liberals are hesitant to trust them.
Bakkar sat in the Indiana Hotel lobby in central Cairo this week where the Salafist parliamentarians were learning about economic and political theory in a seminar. Bearded men filled the lobby, a sight that would probably have prompted a crackdown by Mubarak’s security forces during his rule. The autocratic leader kept Islamists on a tight leash and Salafists in particular hid in the shadows for fear of retribution.
Any alliance between the Nour Party and liberals is considered unlikely, except on specific positions or to counter the Brotherhood power. Omar Ashour, an expert on Islamist movements at Exeter University, said liberals and Salafists would have very little in common — “except that they have a common enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood.’’