Influential Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan has called for the replacement of the $1.3 billion annual US military aid to Egypt with local donations.
Hassan presented his initiative on El-Nahar television channel last weekend, reacting to threats by some American politicians to cut military aid to Egypt.
Tensions between Cairo and Washington escalated following the former’s decision to refer 43 civil society workers, including many Americans, to a Cairo court on charges of violating laws regulating the operation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Egypt is one of the main recipients of US aid worldwide. Since the 1970s, US annual assistance to Egypt has played a significant role in the country’s political discourse, as it is linked to the peace accords with Israel.
The military assistance comes in the form of arms and services, including maintenance.
Hassan, a well-known preacher, explained that his initiative is a response to American “humiliation” of Egypt.
"If America wants to cut military aid, very well; Egypt isn't less than Iran which is self-dependent when it comes to producing its own military equipment,” Hassan told El-Nahar television channel. “The Egyptian people will not be broken anymore.”
Hassan, who has devout followers across Egypt, claimed he will be able to collect LE6 million (approx. $1 million) through donations.
Two Islamist presidential candidates, Mohamed Selim El-Awwa and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, expressed their support for Hassan’s initiative.
Aboul Fotouh, who broke from the Muslim Brotherhood earlier in 2011, said on Tuesday that US aid is not granted for charity but rather serves US interests.
He added during a press conference at the Journalists’ Syndicate that he supports Hassan’s initiative completely. Aboul Fotouh explained that he does not oppose foreign aid to Egypt, but interference in the country’s affairs from donors is not acceptable.
Similarly, El-Awwa announced his support for the initiative to prevent interference in Egypt’s internal affairs, according to several publications on Tuesday.
Last Thursday, Egypt’s ruling military council released a statement stressing that Egypt is a country with a rich heritage that cannot be pressured or blackmailed into doing someone else's bidding.
The council also added that Egypt's relations with the US and others countries were governed by the common interests of both parties, and that "Egypt does not bow to the domination of anyone."
President Obama’s 2011 budget sets aisde $1.5 billion of aid d for Egypt. Accordingly, Egypt ranks fourth on the list of US aid recipients; coming after Afghanistan ($3.9 billion), Pakistan ($3.1 billion) and Israel ($3 billion).
Out of the amount earmarked for Egypt, $1.3 billion is specifically for “peace and security.”