Multiple Egyptian Presidential candidates wrestling with Eligibility

Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack

When members of the Muslim Brotherhood were given the red carpet treatment by the White House this week, Barack Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney justified it by deferring to the Brotherhood’s certain, “prominent role” in Egyptian politics. Any discussions about the Brotherhood’s preferred candidate in next month’s presidential election in Egypt likely included the names Khairat al-Shater and Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh.

Al-Shater could be considered the official Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) candidate. His name and radical positions have been rather ubiquitous in western media. Reuters has reported that sharia law is his “first and final” objective. There’s a small problem; he might not be eligible to run.

You see, al-Shater has received multiple prison sentences (five different times), which tends to cause problems for presidential candidates – even in Egypt. In the two cases that are causing him eligibility woes, al-Shater was accused of money laundering and funding a then-illegal group – the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Ahram explains that al-Shater was pardoned shortly after the fall of Mubarak. According to Fana News, a legal debate about al-Shater’s eligibility is centered around a law that says the Muslim Brotherhood candidate cannot run for at least six years after either being pardoned or serving such a prison sentence.

Unlike al-Shater, Abul-Futuh was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood for – get ready – defying the Ikhwan’s pledge not to run a candidate for President. The logical question to ask is: Why was Abul-Futuh allegedly expelled for doing exactly what al-Shater is doing right now – running for president – without facing the same expulsion?

First, consider that none other than the Muslim Brotherhood’s leader and top theological scholar – Yusuf al-Qaradawi – has endorsed Abul-Futuh. Why would al-Qaradawi back the man expelled by the Brotherhood over the man flying its banner as the Ikhwan’s candidate? Second, both al-Qaradawi and Abul-Futuh are practitioners of Muruna – the lifting of prohibitions in order to aspire to a higher calling. In this case, though not confirmed, a public announcement that he is leaving the Brotherhood while secretly retaining membership would be permitted under Muruna.

That leads us to another problem facing Abul-Futuh. According to El-Balad, Futuh is registered as a citizen of Qatar. Under Egyptian law, it is a serious crime to apply for citizenship in a foreign land without permission of the Egyptian government. Interestingly, according to the Muslim World League website, Qaradawi fled to Qatar in the 1970’s and received citizenship there as well, making him a lawbreaker too.

An extremely interesting development involving a third presidential candidate in Egypt is taking place. Hazem Salah Abu Ismail is a Salafist who appears to have an eligibility issue of his own.

According to Al-Ahram, Egypt’s Interior Minister has ruled that Ismail does not qualify for the presidency because his mother held American citizenship. The smoking gun appears to have come in the form of passport number 500611598. Though Ismail has filed a lawsuit, at least one top official within his party – the Al-Nour Party – said the party would support al-Shater. A party spokesman later denied this report. There have even been credible reports of negotiations between al-Shater and Ismail that would allow the latter to be al-Shater’s running mate.

Of course, that brings us full circle to the eligibility problems of al-Shater.

Ironically, in response to a question from the White House Press Corps., President Barack Obama’s Press Secretary Jay Carney answered a concern about the Muslim Brotherhood getting a red carpet welcome from the White House, by saying:

“The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.”

Apparently, insidious criminal behavior and eligibility issues of presidential candidates with a certain religious affiliation does not warrant an unfavorable judgment from the office of the President of the United States.

Walid Shoebat is the author For God or For Tyranny

Ben Barrack is a talk show host and author of the upcoming book, Unsung Davids


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