Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood reassures Washington
Cairo, (Al-Akhbar): “No need to fear us.” That was the Muslim Brotherhood’s message to the US in 2005. Seven years later, they are trying to offer the same reassurance.
After the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) sweeping parliamentary election victory in 2005, Khairat al-Shater wrote an article titled “No Need to Fear Us” in the Guardian.
Al-Shater is now the deputy chairman of the MB and the Freedom and Justice Party’s (FJP) candidate for the Egyptian presidential elections.
The article aimed to ease Western powers’ concerns over the then rising power of the MB, after they had won one-fifth of the parliament for the first time.
In the article, al-Shater said that the MB does not want “more than just a small piece of the parliamentary cake” in spite of the “great confidence” the Egyptian people have in them.
He added that they only ran for 150 seats out of 444 (in the people’s assembly), because they “recognize that the provision of a greater number of candidates will be considered a provocation to the system” and lead it to “falsify the results.”
The 2005 article even committed the MB to “respect the rights of all political and religious groups” and made no mention of the application of Islamic law.
Today, al-Shater is reaping the fruits of his rapprochement with the West, and especially the United States, in his run for Egypt’s top post.
His position in the race is the opposite of that of the Salafi candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. The latter is facing disqualification because his mother is said to have US citizenship.
The Egyptian electoral law prohibits candidates from having parents with other nationalities. But Abu Ismail’s supporters showed their resentment of the rule by calling for a protest on Friday, raising the slogan of “No to Manipulation [of the election results].”
Abu Ismail also announced that he will be suing the interior ministry for refusing to provide documentation about his mother’s nationality.
One of his supporters, Mostafa Abido, told Al-Akhbar that the US endorses al-Shater against Abu Ismail because the Salafi candidate is committed “to applying sharia and rejects US intervention in Egyptian affairs.”
Earlier this week, Reuters had spoken to Sondos Asim, a member of the FJP’s foreign relations committee and editor of its official English-language website.
At a forum at Georgetown University in Washington, Asim said they were there “to start building bridges of understanding with the United States,” according to Reuters.
“We acknowledge the very important role of the US in the world and we would like our relations with it to be better than before,” he added.
Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, an FJP lawmaker from Luxor, says the party is dedicated to the principle of a “civil state” and the objectives of sharia rather than its specific practice.
This could be the reason behind Abido’s claim that al-Shater is not committed to Islamic law. He says the MB candidate does not aim to apply Sharia and “has announced the opposite to appease the clerics who were present.”
He was referring to al-Shater’s announcement in a meeting Tuesday with the Sharia Council for Rights and Reform. Al-Shater announced then that sharia was and still remains his project and “his first and final objective.”
He said he will form a group of influential personalities to assist the parliament in reaching this goal.
The official spokesperson of the MB Office of Guidance Mahmoud Ghezlan clarified this position to Al-Akhbar. He said that the party’s delegation to Washington “is just to correct the stereotypical image given to us by the former [Egyptian] regime.”
He added that they want to “reassure the West about its interests and our respect of international conventions. But of course we did not ask for the permission of the US or anyone else to nominate Khairat al-Shater.”
“Our decision comes from the Brotherhood’s shura council,” he insists. He added that what applies to international conventions should apply to the Camp David peace accord with Israel.
He emphasized that any final decision will not be made by the MB but “it will be taken by all the Egyptian people.”
In other developments, the US government denied any coordination with the MB on the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt.
Several meetings were held between the group and US senator John McCain and the US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson during the senator’s visit to Egypt last February.
In a press statement released a few days ago in Cairo, the US Embassy claimed there “was no discussion of whether the Muslim Brotherhood would or should run a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt.”
“McCain and Patterson were not asked for their support, nor did they offer their support, for such a proposal from the Muslim Brotherhood,” the statement added.
“The question of who will run for office in Egypt is an internal matter that is entirely up to the Egyptian people. The US takes no position on this subject,” it said.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.