Monday, December 12, 2011

Egypt's Islamists try to calm fears over tourism

Egypt's main Islamist parties on Sunday launched separate conferences aimed at promoting tourism as they scrambled to allay fears that the lucrative industry is under threat from religious conservatism.

The Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) – the political arm of the influential Muslim Brotherhood – announced a conference in Cairo entitled "Let's encourage tourism" that brought together industry leaders and party members.

Meanwhile, Al-Nur, the ultraconservative party representing followers of the fundamentalist Salafi brand of Islam, said it was launching a conference to promote the industry in the Egyptian southern city of Aswan.

About 15 million holidaymakers visited the country last year, attracted by its Pharaonic sites and Red Sea beach resorts. The industry is a key money earner and source of foreign currency.

Islamist parties won a crushing victory in the first stage of parliamentary elections which wrapped up last week, leading to fears they might impose strict Islamic law that could scare off Western holidaymakers.

Some Islamist candidates or religious scholars have advocated destroying ancient monuments – seen as a form of idol worshipping – and bans on alcohol, mixed-sex beaches, gambling and even bikinis.

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