Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi – prominent Islamist preacher, scholar and veteran Muslim Brotherhood member – sent an open letter to the Brotherhood's Egypt-based leadership on Monday regarding the country’s upcoming presidential elections and the group’s anticipated endorsement of a presidential candidate.
Some observers say the letter is another indication of the internal divisions currently besetting the international organisation.
In his message, Qaradawi criticised the directive issued by the group’s Egypt leadership to its members not to deviate from the leadership’s preferred candidate at the ballot box. The Egyptian-born, Qatar-based preacher went on to urge members of the Brotherhood’s authoritative Guidance Bureau to allow the group’s rank and file to vote in upcoming presidential polls – slated for 23 and 24 May – according to their conscience.
Qaradawi went on to criticise the Brotherhood’s decision to expel members who failed to follow the Guidance Bureau’s directions regarding the presidential contest, in a veiled reference to former leading Brotherhood member and current presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh and his supporters. Abul-Fotouh was expelled from the group in the wake of last year’s Tahrir Square uprising when he insisted on making a bid for the presidency despite the group’s policy of not fielding a candidate.
"Those who were expelled from the Brotherhood for not following the leadership’s orders should be allowed back into the group," Qaradawi asserted in his open letter.
The preacher also warned the Brotherhood’s leadership against fielding a presidential candidate from within the group, expressing fears that such a move would only end up splitting the Islamist vote in Egypt’s first post-Mubarak presidential poll.
"I call on you as Egypt’s biggest Islamist faction to adopt a vision aimed at uniting Islamist presidential contenders and choosing a candidate that shares the Muslim Brotherhood's goals," Qaradawi stated, in what some observers saw as a reference to Abul-Fotouh.
Qaradawi, for his part, has already announced his endorsement of Abul-Fotouh's presidential bid.
According to Brotherhood sources, recent surveys suggest that a majority of group members do not want the Brotherhood to officially endorse a particular candidate or field a candidate from within the group.