Cairo: An ultraconservative Islamist group has
put forward a fundamentalist cleric as its candidate in
Egypt`s upcoming presidential elections after reports surfaced
that a leading Islamist candidate currently in the race may be
The Gamaa Islamiya, or Islamic Group, said it has
selected Safwat Hegazy, a prominent imam who preaches on
television and who took part in last year`s protests that
toppled President Hosni Mubarak.
While Hegazy`s views have won him many supporters in
Egypt, they have proven too extreme for some in the West. Last
month France barred him from entering the country for an
Islamic conference along with a number of other high-profile
Muslim clerics on the grounds that they "call for hatred and
The Gamaa Islamiya was a militant organization that
fought Mubarak`s regime in a bloody insurgency in the 1990s,
seeking to establish an Islamic state. It has since renounced
violence. Their newly-formed Construction and Development
Party has 18 seats total in both houses of Parliament.
The group`s leader, Abdel-Akher Hamad, said Hegazy was
chosen as their candidate because he is a well-known cleric
who supports the application of Islamic law.
"For us, he is a pillar of understanding and not an
extremist," Hamad said.
The party said Hegazy has accepted their request he run
for president. He could not be immediately reached for
Hegazy`s name was put forward one day before the deadline
for submitting applications to run for president. He will have
to get the backing of 30 lawmakers or 30,000 signatures by
According to Hamad, the last minute decision to support
Hegazy was spurred by fears that another ultraconservative
candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail, could be disqualified from
running after Egypt`s election commission said yesterday that
his mother was a US citizen.
A law put in place after Mubarak`s fall stipulates that a
candidate, as well as their spouse and parents, may not have
any other citizenship than Egyptian.
Speaking to hundreds in a crowded mosque yesterday, Abu
Ismail said he has proof his mother was not a US citizen and
called the allegations a "plot" against him.