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May
03

RECOMMENDED READING: “New Republic: Media Gets Egyptian Candidate Wrong”

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Eric Trager writing in the New Republic has posted an excellent analysis on both the extremists positions of Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh as well as the incessant description of him as “moderate” by leading U.S. media. The article begins

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh was a leading force in the militant Islamist student movements of the 1970s; one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s point men for aiding the mujahideenin Afghanistan during the 1980s; and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office for twenty-two years. It should not have come as a surprise that he has earned the endorsement of Egypt’s most influential Salafist organizations, al-Dawa al-Salafiyya and its political arm, the Nour Party, as well as the backing of U.S.-designated terrorist organization al-Gama’a al-Islamiya. But American media has had a tough time acknowledging the dispiriting truth that Egypt’s presidential race is now a contest between theocratic Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and Abol Fotouh on the one hand, and autocratic former Mubarak regime officials such as Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq on the other. Instead, the country’s major newspapers have gone out of their way to designate a hero. The Wall Street Journal thus whitewashed Abol Fotouh as “relatively liberal,” while The New York Times dubbed him a “liberal” outright. Any judicious reading of Abol Fotouh’s record would contradict these characterizations. Abol Fotouh’s reputation as a “liberal Islamist” is largely the product of his views on political inclusion. As he notes in his memoirs, he has long advocated for the right of women to run for political office, and he similarly supports Christians’ right to run for president. These stances put him at odds with his more fundamentalist colleagues in the Muslim Brotherhood, including Brotherhood presidential candidate Morsi, and it was one of the reasons for his ouster from the organization’s Guidance Office in 2009. But it was not the primary reason. As Abol Fotouh told me during a March 2011 interview, his disagreements with the other Guidance Office members were mostly about the organization’s dictatorial internal structure, which he wanted to reform by instituting term limits. “I left because I pushed for an amendment that people can only stay in the Guidance Office for eight years, and I asked thirteen other members to [leave the Guidance Office] as well,” he said. “But they refused.” Yet despite his falling out with the Brotherhood’s brass over this administrative matter, Abol Fotouh remained quite committed to the organization: he was a member of the Brotherhood’s Shura Committee — its 100-member policy-making body — for another year-and-a-half, and was among the Brotherhood’s most visible advocates to the international community during the January 2011 revolt that toppled Mubarak. His ultimate departure from the Brotherhood in the summer of 2011 was similarly not because of ideological disagreements, but strategic ones: the Brotherhood leadership vowed not to nominate a presidential candidate, but the ambitious Abol Fotouh declared his candidacy anyway. I

Read the rest here.

The GMBDW had already noted last year that Abol-Fotouh was being supported by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, also often described as a moderate, which should have been cause enough to be suspicious of his description as a moderate. Last week, we also began to catalog Abol Fotough’s history of extremist statements and background. Shortly following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he accused the U.S of plan to “enslave the Arab nation”:

‘This war is not a crusade, but Islam is definitely a target, not as a religion, but as a strong catalyst for resistance and struggle,’ said Abdel-Moneim Abul- Fotouh, a leading member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and deputy secretary-general of the Arab Doctors’ Federation. ‘Islam is perceived as the strongest obstacle to US plans to enslave the Arab nation,’ he added.

 In 2006, he continued along the same lines advising support for “a Hezbollah-Iranian agenda than an ”American-Zionist” one”:

Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, a member of its guidance office, said that the United States had invaded Iraq to divide Muslims and that it was better to support a Hezbollah-Iranian agenda than an ”American-Zionist” one. ”Which one is more dangerous to the Muslim world?” he said in an interview, before attacking ”the regimes who tremble before Iran. They are weak and tattered regimes who don’t acknowledge the will of their people.” When pressed, though, a vague ambivalence emerges. ”Iran would be at the end of our list of enemies, even though it’s not an enemy,” he said. ”Let’s combat the American danger on the region before we ‘compete’ with Iran.”

 In October 2006, U.S. media reported that Abul-Fotouh was one of two  Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders denied U.S. visas  to speak an a conference at NYU: (See Note below)

Two Egyptian-born Islamic leaders, scheduled to speak yesterday at a New York University Law School forum on the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, were not granted visas, according to the Department of Homeland Security and the panel organizer. Kamal Helbawy, 80, the founder of the Muslim Association of Britain, was forced to leave an American Airlines jet bound for New York on Wednesday, minutes before it was to depart Heathrow Airport in London. A DHS spokeswoman said Helbawy was “inadmissible” but would not elaborate. Helbawy was to replace Abdel Monem Abul ElFotouh, 56, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood who had been announced as a speaker at the NYU conference two weeks ago but never received his visa in Egypt….ElFotouh is believed to have led a radical resurgence of the group in the 1970s, although today he is regarded by many watchdogs as a moderate. He was also among 62 group leaders sentenced to five years in prison in Egypt in 1995 for their alleged role in a failed coup.

 (Note: “NYU IN ISLAM FUROR – NO VISAS FOR SPEAKERS” The New York Post October 20, 2006)

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