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Egypt’s next president should respect religion and act according to national interests rather than foreign dictations, said potential Islamist presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh.
“Religion is under the skin of the Egyptian people, whether Muslim or Christian. Hence, the president should be accepting of religion. He should not be against religion,” Abouel Fotouh told the Qatari-funded Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr on Monday.
As to Egypt’s strategic decisions, they should be made independently from the United States and Israel, he added.
“The era of foreign intervention with the Egyptian will has ended with the demise of Hosni Mubarak, who had sold out the country once to the Americans and once to the Zionists,” Abouel Fotouh contended.
In May, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader announced his intention to run for president, defying the group’s decision not to field any presidential nominee. After weeks of sending unequivocal warnings, the group’ Shura Council decided last week to dismiss the 60-year-old doctor from the organization.
Abouel Fotouh affirmed that his expulsion from the group, where he served as a leader for over three decades, would not discourage him from pursuing the presidency.
“This matter is not within my scope of interests,” he said of his split with the Brotherhood. “I’m busy with more important matters.”
In recent years, Abouel Fotouh rose as a dovish voice within the Muslim Brotherhood. His views on democracy, women, Copts and civil liberties distinguished him from the group’s hawks and culminated in his exclusion from the Guidance Bureau, the group’s highest power structure, in an allegedly fraudulent election in December 2009.
Abouel Fotouh contended that his popularity within the group remains uncontested. He is confident that the majority of Muslim Brotherhood members would vote for him.
“I am still the closest [candidate] to [Muslim Brotherhood members] and they are still the closest people to me,” said Abouel Fotouh.
In the same interview, Abouel Fotouh had to answer some tough questions that are usually addressed to Islamists. The questions concerned his position on Egypt’s current banking system, which is dismissed by most conservatives as contrary to Islamic law. They hold that Islam prohibits predetermined and fixed interest rates.
Abouel Fotouh flirted with Islamic economic models but argued that such matters are best left to economists.
“The last financial crisis proved to the world that Islamic banking principles... are the best guarantee against fatal crisis,” said Abouel Fotouh. “[However], these special issues should be left to economic experts; they are the ones to decide on national interests and not clerics.”
Abouel Fotouh is one of four Islamists who announced they would run for the presidency. The others are Magdi Ahmed Hussein, secretary general of the Labor party, Hazem Abu-Ismail, a hard-line Brotherhood member who, like Abouel Fotouh, had defied the group’s decision, and Islamic intellectual Mohamed Selim al-Awa.
Awa, a 69-year-old lawyer, belongs to the same school of thought as Abouel Fotouh. They both hold moderate views on the role of Islam in politics, which made them popular among progressive Islamist youth. In recent days, fears of vote splitting have raised the possibility that the men could throw their support behind one candidate.
“Everything is possible...I can coordinate with my brother Dr. al-Awa; he can pull out or I pull out or we both continue together,” said Abouel Fotouh, adding that it is still too early to decide.
“The map of presidential nominations has not yet become clear and even the [presidential elections] law has yet to be issued,” he said.
According to the preliminary results of a Facebook poll conducted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Awa seems to have the best standing out of the four men. Garnering 21 percent of the votes, he was ranked second after former diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei on the first day of the survey. Abouel Fotouh earned 3 percent of the votes.
The poll is expected to continue until July 19.