Presidential vote splits Egypt’s strict Islamists

By TAMIM ELYAN | REUTERS ARABNEWS

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: At Al-Taqwa mosque in Egypt’s second biggest city, a preacher defends his ultra-orthodox Salafi group’s decision to endorse Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, an Islamist who casts himself as a moderate, in this month’s presidential election.

“Don’t consider his media statements only. He has various writings that confirm his comprehensive understanding of Islam and his desire to achieve it,” Yasser Burhamy, a founder of the Salafi movement in Egypt, tells his Alexandria audience, his message recorded and posted on the group’s website.

The poll, expected to go to a run-off in June, is a landmark in a turbulent transition to democracy that could see Egypt elect an Islamist to replace deposed President Hosni Mubarak, who repressed proponents of political Islam throughout his 30-year rule and battled armed Muslim militants in the 1990s.

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