Brotherhood addresses the West after elections success

After a sweeping victory in the first phase of parliamentary elections last week, Egypt’s main Islamist movement is sending letters of assurance to Western nations declaring their commitment to democracy and their respect for religious freedoms.

In his first meeting with foreign officials, Mohamed Morsy, president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), assured James Watt, the British ambassador to Egypt, that the FJP is respectful of democratic values and religious freedoms. He added that the FJP feels that such rights must be included in the new constitution, scheduled to be drafted by the elected parliament.

“The new constitution must protect the rights of all Egyptians, irrespective of their beliefs, race or color,” he told the British diplomat.

The FJP led the poll in the first phase of elections last week, gaining 40 percent of the votes. The ultra-conservative Salafi Nour Party came in second, with 20 percent.

Broad victories by Islamists in Egypt followed similar trends in Tunisia and Morocco, where Islamists swept the polls. Secular forces in those countries fear that the success of the Islamists might lead to restrictions on personal and religious freedoms.

Watt told Morsy that Britain will deal with any elected Egyptian government so a long as it represents the will of the people. He also praised the first phase of the elections, calling them “the launch of democracy in Egypt.”

Egypt is home to the biggest religious minority in the Middle East, with Coptic Christians making up around 10 percent of the population. Many in the community are afraid that Islamic forces may seek to impose rigid Islamic laws in the country.

Essam al-Erian, the deputy head of the FJP, has confirmed in an interview with the Associated Press that his party will not seek to impose Islamic values on Egypt.

"We represent a moderate and fair party," Erian said of his Freedom and Justice Party. "We want to apply the basics of Sharia law in a fair way that respects human and personal rights," he said.

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