(CNSNews.com) – An Egyptian cleric closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood has declared his candidacy in this year’s presidential elections, three months after the organization first said it would not put up a candidate for president.
The MB has sought to allay concerns expressed at home and abroad about a looming Islamist takeover in the Arab world’s biggest country, saying that its newly-established “Freedom and Justice Party” would operate independently of the Brotherhood, with its membership open to all Egyptians.
It also pledged not to contest more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament in legislative elections to be held shortly before the presidential poll, while moving away from rhetoric viewed as discriminatory towards women and Coptic Christians.
The candidacy of Sheikh Hazem Abu Ismail and his declared positions on sensitive issues will not help the MB’s effort to present a more palatable face, however.
Announcing his campaign Sunday in a mosque in Giza, south of Cairo, Abu Ismail said that, if elected, he would implement Islamic law (shari’a) and annul Egypt’s three decade-old peace treaty with Israel, according to a report in the Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper.
Abu Ismail said his campaign platform revolves around Islam. He predicted that other candidates, such as former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei and former Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa, would be unable to present a clear vision for Egypt.
“We seek to apply Islamic law, but those who don’t want it prefer cabarets, alcohol, dancers and prostitution, as the implementation of Islamic law will prohibit women to appear naked in movies and on beaches,” the paper quoted him as saying.
With regard to the 1979 Camp David peace accord with Israel, Abu Ismail called it “insulting to the Egyptian people.”
“It must be canceled, and I will do my best to convince people to cancel it.”
Abu Ismail ran unsuccessfully as an MB candidate for a Giza constituency in parliamentary elections in 2005.
He is the second Egyptian associated with the MB to enter the 2011 presidential race. Abdel Moneim Abouel Fotouh, a longtime member of the MB executive bureau and head of the Arab Medical Union, declared his candidacy earlier this month.
In an interview on Egyptian state television Sunday, MB “supreme guide” Mohammed Badie stressed again that the group had no plan to dominate Egyptian politics, noting again its pledge not to contest more than 50 percent of the seats in parliament.
Badie was not asked about the Abu Ismail candidacy, but did say with regard to Fotouh’s campaign that it did not represent the MB and would not have Brotherhood backing.
The MB chief also insisted that the organization had no problems with Christians. On the contrary, 93 Copts had joined the ““Freedom and Justice Party,” he said. Badie attributed the difficulties faced by Copts to the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, and said new legislation must be passed safeguarding religious freedom.