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Culture minister claims Islamists refuse to engage with govt

Culture Minister Shaker Abdel Hamid said Wednesday that his attempts to engage Islamist groups in dialogue have not fared as well as he had hoped.

The minister told Egyptian satellite channel CBC that he had reached out to communicate with Islamists, "but they did not reciprocate," saying that they had an unfavorable view of the current government.

In the interview, some of which was quoted in state-run Al-Ahram newspaper, Abdel Hamid claimed Islamists don't feel the need to work with a government they see as temporary. They are also certain, according to the minister, that the parliamentary majority they secured in recent elections will enable them to form their own government.

Together the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Salafi-led Nour Party will fill more than two-thirds of the seats in Egypt's lower house of parliament, the People's Assembly.

Many secular intellectuals and figures from the art world fear that the rising influence of Islamist political groups might lead to restrictions on cultural and artistic freedoms.

Abdel Hamid said during a seminar earlier this month that Egyptians are not afraid of an Islamist parliament takeover and will not accept oppression again.

"Having open-minded Islamists in a civil state will not cause a problem … we do not need a president who tells us how to pray and fast," the minister said during the seminar.

Abdel Hamid faced accusations earlier this month that he had excluded Islamists from the Supreme Council of Culture. But in the TV interview the minister defended the council, saying its posts were filled based on democratic mechanisms laid down by his predecessor, Emad Abu Ghazi.

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