Salafi leader offers Egypt army 'safe exit'

News article, posted 01.10.2012, from Egypt, in:
Salafi leader offers Egypt army 'safe exit' (Photo: Al-Masry Al-Youm)

There was a time when Islamist lawyer Hazem Salah Abu Ismail's toughest challenge was brokering business deals and marriages. Now he is trying to bring his conflict resolution skills to the power struggle playing out in the new Egypt.

With his long white beard and wearing a suit and tie, the 50-year-old presidential hopeful sits in his office in the middle-class neighborhood of Dokki in Cairo reflecting on ways, however unpalatable, to break the military's hold on power.

Abu Ismail is running for president in an election due by the end of June, banking on his base in the ultra-conservative Salafi movement, estimated to have 3 million supporters.

The mosque preacher, known to millions of Egyptians from his frequent appearances on religious television shows, has no formal post in any Salafi or other political party. He was a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group.

Salafi youth supporters in Cairo's Tahrir square, the hub of the 18-day uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak on 11 February, call him the "sheikh-president".

As Egyptians prepare to mark the first anniversary of the revolt, many view the generals who replaced Mubarak as a vestige of the old order who must quit like their former commander.


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