Khairat al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood's primary presidential candidate, held the very first rally of his campaign in front of a packed auditorium at Al-Azhar University on Tuesday. It didn’t go exactly as planned.
Despite the large turnout and show of support from students and faculty at Al-Azhar University — known to be a bastion of Brotherhood support in recent years — Shater had to endure prolonged heckling from a student upset with his decision to run, and an onstage scuffle with a supporter of Salafi Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who sees Shater’s nomination as a betrayal to the Islamist vote, which may otherwise have gone to Abu Ismail.
The disturbances likely came as a surprise to Shater, who chose Al-Azhar as his campaign’s first major stop.
“Egypt in its entirety chose to be an Islamist reference point through the referendums and elections. Al-Azhar’s moderate Islam represents the cornerstone of this reference point,” Shater said.
The campaign seems intent on highlighting the injustice Shater faced through his life to attract voters. Some students looked teary-eyed at a video that preceded Shater’s appearance titled “From Prisons to Ruling Egypt.” Similarly he pointed to the symbolism of beginning his campaign at Al-Azhar, because his last prison stint was due to allegations that he was forming combat militias after a martial arts exhibition by Brotherhood Al-Azhar students in 2006.
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