Saturday, April 28, 2012

Salafis for Abu al-Futuh

In the latest unexpected development in Egypt's presidential race, the salafi al-Nur party has thrown its support behind liberal Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh:
"he endorsement goes a long way toward making Mr. Aboul Fotouh the front-runner in a campaign that could shape the ultimate outcome of the revolt that ousted the former strongman, Hosni Mubarak.

"Mr. Aboul Fotouh’s liberal understanding of Islamic law on matters of individual freedom and economic equality had already made him the preferred candidate of many Egyptian liberals.

"His endorsement on Saturday by the Salafis now makes him the candidate of Egypt’s most determined conservatives, too. Known for their strict focus on Islamic law, the Salafis often talk of reviving medieval Islamic corporal punishments, restricting women’s dress and the sale of alcohol, and cracking down on heretical culture."

This endorsement is surprising in that with the disqualification of Abu Ismail, the salafis might have been expected to go with Muslim Brotherhood candidate Muhammad Mursi. The Brotherhood is more liberal than the salafis, but not nearly so much as Abu 'l- Futuh. I say this hesitantly given how just a few weeks ago the Egyptian judiciary made fools of us all, but the reasons for this endorsement could lie in the salafis' desire not to see too much power in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, with which they compete for a share of Islamist votes and the right to represent Islam in the public sphere. In addition, the New York Times suggests that Aboul Fotouh's economic program, grounded in his idea that the core of Islam is social justice, has more appeal to their poor supporters than that of the more upscale private-sector friendly Muslim Brothers.



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