In this week's In Translation article — provided by the hive mind at Industry Arabic, which you should immediately hire for all your translation purposes — we hear the views of Sheikh Yasser Borhami, who heads the Da'wa Salafiya movement of Alexandria and is in effect the spiritual head of the Nour Party.
Borhami and Da'wa Salafiya have emerged as the most important voices of the Salafi movement in Egypt, and the most willing to engage in electoral politics. Borhami is one of Egypt's most influential preachers, and his decision to back the Nour Party marked the first major foray by Salafists onto the national political scene. In a recent Brookings paper on the Egyptian Salafi movement, Stephane Lacroix writes:
The Nour Party was founded by an informal religious organization called the “Salafi Da‘wa” (al- Da‘wa al-Salafiyya), whose leadership is based in Alexandria. The origins of the Salafi Da‘wa date back to the late 1970s, when its founders – students at the faculty of medicine at Alexandria University – broke away from the Islamist student groups known as al-Gama‘at al-Islamiyya (“Islamic groups”). Among them was Yasir Burhami, currently the dominant figure in the organization. The Salafi Da‘wa’s stance against violence and refus- al to engage in formal politics made it relatively acceptable to the Mubarak regime. To be sure, the group did at times endure repression; its leaders were kept under close surveillance and were forbidden from traveling outside Alexandria. However, the Salafi Da‘wa often benefited from the covert support of the regime apparatus, which tried to use Salafis to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence.
Borhami is not involved in the day to day running of the party, but exerts a dominant influence on its key decisions — such as backing Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh rather than Mohammed Morsi in the first round of the presidential elections, insisting on a constitution that gives priority to Shariʿa, or refusing electoral alliances with secular parties. The interview that appears below made some noise because of Borhami's insistence on new wording for the future constitution's reference to Shariʿa, which would favor a Salafist interpretation of Shariʿa and its influence on shaping legislation.