Although Egyptian authorities have prohibited candidates from using houses of worship to promote their presidential campaigns, Gulf News reports that a number of Islamic groups have utilized their visitations to congregations to urge worshipers to “elect candidates who know well God’s religion and are careful to implement Sharia.”
“The candidates are obviously exploiting the religious sentiments of the Egyptians to win them over,” Fat’hi Mansour, a professor of political sociology, stated. “There is also an apparent manipulation of people’s needs in the poor areas in campaigning. Addressing religious feelings instead of promoting religious tolerance poses a threat to Egypt,” he added. According to Gulf News, approximately 40 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million inhabitants is believed to be living below the poverty line.
Sharia law was the center of a recent televised debate between another two high potential candidates: the former foreign minister and Arab League Chief, Amr Moussa, and former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who is now endorsed by the ultra-conservative Islamist group, the Salafi Nour Party.
Moussa questioned Aboul Fotouh’s intention to enforce the Islamic law and his position on freedom of religion, to which Fotouh appeared too bewildered to present clear answers.
“Your opposition and defense were for the Brotherhood, not for Egypt,” Moussa told Abu Al Fotouh during the debate.
Moussa also read passages from one of Fotouh’s publications, which seemed to advocate violence in some circumstances. He questioned the former Brotherhood leader regarding his present stance and whether or not he will revert from his writings.
Additionally, Moussa pointed out Aboul Fotouh’s past membership in an Islamist militant group that carried out attacks against civilians and policemen, for which he was imprisoned during Mubarak’s era. Fotouh strongly denied the allegations.
During the debate, which lasted more than four hours, Aboul Fotouh called Israel an “enemy country, a racist state,” and expressed anger when Moussa refused to do the same.
While both candidates agreed that the Constitution should be guided by Sharia Islamic law, Moussa appeared hesitant to allow discrimination against minorities. Fotouh seemed more likely to sanction it.
In an interview last week with a private Egyptian satellite station, Fotouh denounced the assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by US Special Forces as an act of “state terrorism.” Conversely, he stated that when used by the United States, the term “terrorist” only serves to “hit Muslim interests.” Fotouh declined to classify Bin Laden as a terrorist.
The Salafist Party, the second most dominating ultra-conservative Islamist group in the Egyptian parliament, is coordinating with the Muslim Brotherhood over the presidential election to see Islamic law strictly imposed in Egypt. During their parliamentary campaigns, sermons in mosques explicitly commanded the faithful to vote for their party’s candidates or face the fires of hell.