BEIRUT

Middle East

Poll finds majority of Egyptians oppose Islamic theocracy

CAIRO: A poll released Sunday indicates that at this point, only a small minority of Egyptians support the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and less than 1 percent favor an Iran-style Islamic theocracy.

The Gallup poll conducted after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak found that while 69 percent of Egyptians want religious leaders to have an “advisory role” in new legislation, most do not want a government based in religion.

Only 15 percent said they support the Muslim Brotherhood, while over 60 percent showed no political preference.

The results appeared to counter a widely held view that the Muslim Brotherhood will be the main winner in September’s parliamentary elections.

The Brotherhood favors a regime guided by Islamic Sharia law.

The Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed under Mubarak, said in April that it would contest half the seats in Egypt’s parliamentary elections in September, sparking fears among secular political forces of a parliament dominated by Islamists.

The poll results are heavily influenced by undecided voters among the 60 percent with no stated preference, but they indicate that if the election were held now, the Brotherhood would not be the controlling factor.

Indicating religious tolerance in Egypt, the poll showed that Egypt and Lebanon are the most likely in the Middle East to “welcome a neighbor of another faith.” Christians comprise 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

The Egyptians’ position toward the United States was not affected by the popular revolution. A majority of Egyptians expressed disapproval of U.S. policy, based on its perceived support of Israel, said Dalia Mogahed, director of Abu Dhabi Gallup Center. She said Gallup recommends that the U.S. “work tirelessly to end the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”

In local issues, the poll showed half of Egyptians believe the economic conditions are worsening. Even so, most appear optimistic about a better political and economic future.

The poll, conducted in April, surveyed 1,000 Egyptians aged 15 and older between late March and early April, and quoted a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Separately, Egypt’s public prosecutor said Saturday it had referred 48 Muslims and Christians to criminal court for their roles in sectarian violence that led to the burning of a church in the Cairo district of Imbaba May 7.

The clashes, in which 12 people were killed and 52 wounded, were sparked by rumors that Christians had abducted a woman, Abeer Fakhry, who had converted to Islam.

Among the charges against the 48 were incitement to sectarian violence, premeditated murder, terrorism and arson, the prosecutor said.

Such clashes have posed a challenge for Egypt’s new military rulers, under pressure to impose security and revive the ailing economy while seeking to avoid the tough security tactics against Islamists used by Mubarak.

Prosecutor’s office spokesman Adel Said said that before the clashes a number of Muslims had gathered outside a mosque in Imbaba to incite people to search buildings near a church to find the woman.

As the crowd moved to the church, rumors spread among Christians in the neighborhood that the crowd was planning to attack the church. They formed groups to protect the church, and some fired guns at the crowd of Muslims, the spokesman said.

Some Muslims were also carrying weapons, and they responded with gunfire of their own. Another rumor that a Muslim cleric had been killed further provoked a group of Muslims to attack and set the church ablaze, he added.

The prosecutor said 22 of those referred to criminal court were in custody and orders had been sent out for the other 26 to be arrested.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 06, 2011, on page 8.

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