MP's denunciation of SCAF head, Salafist leader lands him Parliament investigation

Ahram Online , Sunday 19 Feb 2012

Accusations fly between MPs and SCAF officials after leftist member of People's Assembly Ziad El-Eleimy publicly insults military council, influential Salafist preacher Hassan; Parliament opens inquiry

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Ziyad El-Eleimy (Photo: Ahram)

In the afternoon session of Egypt's parliament on Sunday, MP Ziad El-Eleimy defended himself after an altercation prompted by comments made about Egypt's de facto ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and influential Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan.

El-Eleimi's statements about the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) caused a row after he referenced a famous Egyptian proverb in which Tantawi was allegedly characterised as a donkey. Further stirring controversy, El-Eleimy allegedly went on to also refer to influential Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan as a "vegetable seller," asserting also that "not everyone with a beard should be regarded as a sheikh."

El-Eleimy defended his statements about the SCAF, stressing that Egypt's ruling military council had yet to be held accountable for the 1 February Port Said football tragedy or its mismanagement of Egypt's post-revolution political scene.

In parliament's morning session, independent MP Mostafa Bakry said El-Eleimy should be held accountable – even referred to investigation – for his contentious statements.The Freedom and Justice Party Speaker of the People's Assembly Saad El-Katatni, for his part, referred El-Eleimy to investigation after the latter's refusal to apologise for his remarks.

The administrator of the SCAF's official Facebook page, meanwhile, posted a statement on Saturday criticising El-Eleimy's anti-SCAF comments. The comments in question were made at a Friday conference in Port Said attended by numerous political activists, MPs and media figures. The conference had been convened in hopes of breaking the social and economic boycott that hit the city following the 1 February stadium tragedy that resulted in the death of more than 70 football fans.  

On Saturday, the administrator of the SCAF Facebook page stated that many young people and parliamentarians disagreed with the way the ruling military council had managed Egypt's post-revolution transitional period. "There are those who call for the immediate handover of power [to a civil authority], but there are also those who are committed to the [SCAF's political] road map," the statement clarified.

"Disagreements are common; it is the only way by which a truly democratic experience can come about," the statement continued. "As long as disagreements take place in a respectful manner, they are acceptable – but when he [El-Eleimy] publicly insults the head of the SCAF, we must stop and consider his fitness for parliament."   

The statement went on: "In our honourable institution [the SCAF], we don't usually respond to such quarrels. But what has forced us to respond in this case is the character of the spokesperson." In a veiled reference to El-Eleimy, the statement concluded with another Egyptian proverb that states, "Indecency only emanates from indecent people."

Ziad El-Eleimi is a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. He is also a lawyer, human rights activist, founding, and leading member of the Revolution’s Youth Coalition (RYC).

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