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Islamist Rivalry Colors Egypt Race (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHARLES LEVINSON, MATT BRADLEY and ADAM Z. HORVATH CAIRO, EGYPT 04/20/12)Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304331204577354152897610974.html WALL STREET JOURNAL WALL STREET JOURNAL Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Banned Candidate and Presidential Hopeful, Formerly Allies, Offer Competing Religious Visions

CAIRO—The most bitter rivalry emerging in Egypt´s presidential campaign pits two candidates with competing visions of Islam and a long-running personal feud.

The race between the Muslim Brotherhood´s bid to win the presidency and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who split from the group last summer, could help define the contest over the next five weeks until the May 23 election day. Mr. Aboul Fotouh´s more liberal vision of Islam has long been at odds with the Brotherhood´s conservative old guard.

On Thursday, banned Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat al- Shater said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that the group wouldn´t challenge the election commission´s ruling that disqualified him from running, and would rally behind substitute candidate Mohammed Morsi.

Mr. Shater said the ruling "was based on political reasons, not legal reasons," but that a planned Friday protest in Cairo´s central Tahrir Square would be aimed at criticizing the country´s ruling generals, not reinstating his candidacy. Meanwhile another banned candidate, the hard-line Salafi preacher Hazem Abu Ismail, acknowledged for the first time that the reason he was disqualified—his mother held an American passport—was correct, an admission that also could tamp down tensions at Friday´s demonstration.

But interviews with Islamist rivals Mr. Shater and Mr. Aboul Fotouh on Thursday showed how the mutual hostility is coloring the choice for voters over the potential role of Islam in the post-revolutionary government.

"You cannot mix religious advocacy with politics," said Mr. Aboul Fotouh. "This is a danger to religion and it´s a danger to the nation."

Mr. Aboul Fotouh accused the group of straying from its core mission of charity and teaching Islam, as the group´s founder Hassan al-Banna had envisioned.

Mr. Shater said Mr. Aboul Fotouh´s criticisms were just sour grapes from a former member bitter he was pushed out of the group´s leadership ranks.

"Aboul Fotouh justifies his inability to get support inside the organization by blaming that on other pretexts," said Mr. Shater. "He says the Brotherhood should stay away from politics because politics is a dirty swamp, so why is he himself entering this dirty swamp."

Mr. Shater spoke in his office in the moneyed Cairo neighborhood of Heliopolis. His office has white leather couches and is dotted with knickknacks that hint at his aspirations for Egypt under Brotherhood rule, including a paperweight of Islamist-ruled Malaysia´s Petronas Towers, and a hardcover edition of "Korea from Rags to Riches" on his bookshelf next to a five-volume set of Quranic interpretation.

Other rifts also shape the presidential contest, such as power struggles between Islamists and liberals—including Amr Moussa, Egypt´s former foreign minister and the third front-runner in the race—and between the Brotherhood and the country´s ruling generals.

Mr. Shater, however, sent a conciliatory message to the military during the interview. One of the Brotherhood´s top financiers, he said the group doesn´t seek to battle the military regime directly, despite their increasing confrontations since Hosni Mubarak was deposed.

"The military is an institution that has ruled Egypt for 60 years and undoing this needs a wise and gradual approach toward building a modern democratic system," said Mr. Shater. He said the Brotherhood has spent time studying the transitions of other military dictatorships, such as Indonesia after the fall of Suharto and post- Franco Spain.

"We found it takes five to 10 years to gradually reduce the military´s influence," said Mr. Shater. "It´s not in the interest of the Egyptian people to have a collision."

The emerging contest between Messrs. Aboul Fotouh and Morsi highlights one of the surprising outcomes of the democratization wave sweeping the region. Pro-democracy revolutions such as Egypt´s have empowered Islamist movements, but they have also splintered them.

"Mohammed Morsi and Aboul Fotouh, are both religious candidates, but they represent different ideas of Islam," said Bassem Sabry, a liberal-minded blogger and political analyst.

But the rivalry between the Brotherhood and Mr. Aboul Fotouh runs deeper than theological differences over Islam.

Messrs. Shater and Aboul Fotouh served in jail together for their activities in the Brotherhood from 1995-2000. But they soon found themselves at odds over which direction to take the group.

Messrs. Shater and Morsi were among a core group of more conservative Brotherhood members who rose to power in internal elections in January 2010. More recently, several former Brotherhood officials said, Mr. Shater led the effort to expel Mr. Aboul Fotouh from the organization last summer after Mr. Aboul Fotouh said he would run for president, a claim Mr. Shater denied. (Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc.) 04/20/12)


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