From the Mosque to the Polls: The Emergence of the Al Nour Party in Post-Arab Spring Egypt

Laurence Deschamps-Laporte

Abstract: In this paper, I examine the rise of the Al Nour Salafi party that won 27 percent of the vote in the 2011 Egyptian parliamentary elections. I present a new explanation for their popularity based on the analysis of ethnographic data collected in Alexandria. I question the prevalent explanation that Al Nour’s rise is mainly due to the party’s active response to the socioeconomic grievances of the marginalized poor, who are more susceptible to indoctrination by radical religious parties. I demonstrate its limitations by highlighting the scarce evidence that Al Nour carries out significant charity work. Also, while some of its supporters express socioeconomic grievances, Al Nour voters represent different social classes. I present an alternative explanation based on social movement theory paired with Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and argue that the Al Nour politicians disseminate and promote a discourse of Salafi social justice and leverage it to rally supporters. Already exposed to the Salafi habitus, Muslims who attend mosques controlled by the Da’wa Salafiyya are encouraged to extend their religious practices into actions in support of the party. To nuance this analysis, I also briefly discuss the motives of Salafi subgroups that are not necessarily active within Al Nour, such as Salafi women. While they are embedded in a similar Salafi habitus, they usually embrace different discursive practices and choose to remain outside of politics.

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