Islamist Rivalry Colors Egypt Race (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By CHARLES LEVINSON, MATT BRADLEY and ADAM Z. HORVATH CAIRO, EGYPT 04/20/12)
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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
"You cannot mix religious advocacy with politics," said Mr. Aboul
Fotouh. "This is a danger to religion and it´s a danger to the
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
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
"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
"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-
"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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