Regional media are reporting that the Egyptian Salafist party al-Nour is supporting the presidential candidacy of Abdel-Moneim Abol Fotouh, also backed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. According to an Al-Jazeera report:
Egypt’s Islamic party al-Nour has decided to support an ex-Muslim Brotherhood member in next month’s presidential election, the party has announced. The leader of the Nour party, Emad Abdel-Ghafour, said on Saturday that the decision to back Abdel-Moneim Abol Fotouh was designed to allay fears among Egyptians over the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, after it swept recent parliamentary and constituent assembly elections. The decision by al-Nour, which has around 20 per cent of the seats in parliament, could cause problems for official Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi, who risks losing a large section of the Islamist vote to Abol Fotouh. The second largest party in parliament, bettered only by the Brotherhood in legislative elections early this year, al-Nour is now a formidable force in Egypt’s politics. The May 23 and 24 presidential election will decide who replaces Hosni Mubarak. Other front-runners include the Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister. Abol Fotouh, known as a reformer within the Muslim Brotherhood, broke ties with the group last year when he decided to run for president, going against the group’s initial decision not to run for the post. But in a policy U-turn last month, the Brotherhood decided to contest the election. Mursi, the group’s candidate, is seen as part of a more conservative wing in the Brotherhood and has been widely criticised for lacking charisma. Finding support among the Liberal and Islamist camps, Abol Fotouh said last week he was confident he would win in the first round.”
Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi – prominent Islamist preacher, scholar and veteran Muslim Brotherhood member – sent an open letter to the Brotherhood’s Egypt-based leadership on Monday regarding the country’s upcoming presidential elections and the group’s anticipated endorsement of a presidential candidate. Some observers say the letter is another indication of the internal divisions currently besetting the international organization. In his message, Qaradawi criticised the directive issued by the group’s Egypt leadership to its members not to deviate from the leadership’s preferred candidate at the ballot box. The Egyptian-born, Qatar-based preacher went on to urge members of the Brotherhood’s authoritative Guidance Bureau to allow the group’s rank and file to vote in upcoming presidential polls – slated for 23 and 24 May – according to their conscience. Qaradawi went on to criticise the Brotherhood’s decision to expel members who failed to follow the Guidance Bureau’s directions regarding the presidential contest, in a veiled reference to former leading Brotherhood member and current presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh and his supporters. Abul-Fotouh was expelled from the group in the wake of last year’s Tahrir Square uprising when he insisted on making a bid for the presidency despite the group’s policy of not fielding a candidate. “Those who were expelled from the Brotherhood for not following the leadership’s orders should be allowed back into the group,” Qaradawi asserted in his open letter. The preacher also warned the Brotherhood’s leadership against fielding a presidential candidate from within the group, expressing fears that such a move would only end up splitting the Islamist vote in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential poll. “I call on you as Egypt’s biggest Islamist faction to adopt a vision aimed at uniting Islamist presidential contenders and choosing a candidate that shares the Muslim Brotherhood’s goals,” Qaradawi stated, in what some observers saw as a reference to Abul-Fotouh. Qaradawi, for his part, has already announced his endorsement of Abul-Fotouh’s presidential bid. According to Brotherhood sources, recent surveys suggest that a majority of group members do not want the Brotherhood to officially endorse a particular candidate or field a candidate from within the group.
Qaradawi, a virulent anti-Semite is often referred to here as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to lead the Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide. Based in Qatar, Sheikh Qaradawi has reportedly amassed substantial wealth through his role as Shari’ah adviser to many important Islamic banks and funds. He is also considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were instrumental in the development of the phenomenon. A recent post has discussed a video compilation of Qaradawi’s extremist statements.
Abul-Fotouh has his own history of extremist statements. Shortly following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, he accusedthe 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 advisingsupport 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)