This is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

CAIRO (AP) — Islamic hard-liners, some of them heavily suppressed under three decades of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, are enthusiastically diving into Egypt’s new freedoms, forming political parties to enter upcoming elections and raising alarm that they will try to lead the country into fundamentalist rule.

Some militants, taking advantage of a security vacuum, aren’t waiting for the political process. They have attacked Christians and liquor stores, trying to impose their austere version of Islamic law in provincial towns.

The Islamists’ newfound energy prompted the ruling military to warn on Monday that Egypt “will not be turned into Gaza or Iran.”

Islamists could fare well in parliamentary elections scheduled for September, especially if the various groups run on a unified ticket. Their chances are boosted by the disarray among other groups. Traditional opposition parties were deeply restricted under Mubarak’s 29-year rule and have no popular base to speak of. The liberal youth groups behind the 18-day uprising that forced Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11 are still scrambling to organize before voting day.

The Islamists, furthermore, are well funded and organized. The most established fundamentalist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has years of experience in contesting elections.