Anti-American Egyptian Candidate May Be Tripped Up by Mother’s U.S. Ties (NY) TIMES) By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK CAIRO, EGYPT 04/05/12)
NEW YORK TIMES
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CAIRO — An ultraconservative Islamist whose denunciations of American
power have helped propel him to the front of Egypt’s presidential
race appears to have been tripped up by his own American connections.
The mother of the candidate, Sheik Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, became an
American citizen before she died, according to California public
records and a Los Angeles voter registration Web site. That would
disqualify Mr. Abu Ismail from running for president under current
Egyptian law. And his exit would again scramble the race to become
Egypt’s first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and to
potentially set the template for the government of a major Arab state.
Mr. Abu Ismail said his mother had obtained a green card granting her
legal permanent residence, but not citizenship, and the incongruous
image of an anti-American Islamist seemingly unaware of the details
of his mother’s life in California is already delighting Egyptian
liberals. And if Mr. Abu Ismail is forced to leave the race, American
diplomats apprehensive about the possible repercussions of his
victory may also be pleased. But in practical political terms his
departure may help unite a fractured Islamist vote.
A spokesman for Mr. Abu Ismail’s campaign said it had sent a
delegation to the United States to investigate. Presented with a
report from a database of public records that included an address in
Santa Monica, Calif., for his mother, Nawal Abel Aziz Nour, as well
as her name on a Los Angeles voter registration list, the campaign
spokesman, Mohamed Fahim Abdel Ghaffar, suggested it could be a
Interior Ministry officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity
to discuss pending investigations, said separately on Wednesday that
they had obtained copies of what they described as American “travel
documents” belonging to Ms. Aziz Nour that indicated she had been a
United States citizen before her death, but the exact nature of the
documents could not be confirmed. A search of the Web indicated that
Ms. Aziz Nour died within the last few years.
Mr. Abu Ismail’s campaign said Wednesday that he was filing a lawsuit
in an administrative court here to force the Interior Ministry to
publicly disclose its evidence.
“We’re going on with our campaign normally,” Mr. Abdel Ghaffar
said. “Sheikh Hazem doesn’t want to make any comments to the media
before he has made a strong legal response to these allegations.”
Mr. Abu Ismail has said that his sister, Hanan, had married an
American and become an American citizen, and that his mother obtained
a green card so that she could spend more time with her daughter.
In some public records, Ms. Aziz Nour and her daughter, Hanan Salah
Abou Ismail, share a Santa Monica address. On Wednesday, a
receptionist answered a phone number associated with Ms. Abou Ismail
and confirmed that she was the sister of the Egyptian presidential
candidate. Ms. Abou Ismail did not return phone calls seeking to
clarify the situation.
A Los Angeles County Web site also confirmed that Nawal A. Nour, with
same address and birthday as the Nawal A. Nour linked to Mr. Abu
Ismail’s sister, had registered to vote.
The Egyptian election commission is expected to rule on Mr. Abu
Ismail’s eligibility to run. Voting is scheduled to start in late May.
The most likely beneficiary of the controversy is Khairat el-Shater,
the newly announced candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood. But backers
of a more liberal Islamist, Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, said they,
too, hoped to take Mr. Abu Ismail’s supporters. Although culturally
more liberal than Mr. Abu Ismail, Mr. Aboul Fotouh has struck similar
populist notes on economic issues, emphasizing government support for
the poor in contrast to the Brotherhood’s business-friendly emphasis
on free markets.
Before Mr. Mubarak was ousted last spring, the Constitution
stipulated that only candidates whose parents were both Egyptian
citizens were eligible for the presidency, although those rules
remained hypothetical since Egypt never held a free presidential
But when the generals who seized power after Mr. Mubarak left office
issued a “constitutional declaration” for the interim government,
they bowed to a surge in national pride and also barred candidates
with a parent who held citizenship in any other country even if both
parents were also citizens of Egypt.
At the time, the rule was considered most likely to work against
liberal candidates friendly to the West. Voters drawn to Mr. Abu
Ismail’s brand of Islamic populism were all for it.
As speculation about Mr. Abu Ismail’s mother heated up this week,
though, those Western friendly liberals began to breathe sighs of
relief. Just days ago, many of them were trading nervous jokes about
the recent appearance on seemingly every wall in Cairo of posters
bearing Mr. Abu Ismail’s bushy, white beard and broad, toothy smile.
By Wednesday, though, the liberal banter had turned to taunts. Some
suggested that Mr. Abu Ismail was either lying or short-sighted, or
perhaps did not know his own mother’s passport. Others compared him
to the ultraconservative Islamist who became Egypt’s first post-
Mubarak political scandal casualty. That politician had sought
sympathy for what he said was a vicious beating sustained during an
armed robbery, but his bandages turned out to cover a nose job.
Sheelagh McNeill contributed reporting from New York, and Mayy El
Sheikh from Cairo. (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company
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