Leftist MP says he won't apologise for Tantawi, Hassan comments

Ahram Online, Monday 20 Feb 2012

MP Ziad El-Eleimy says he has no plans to issue public apology for perceived insults to military council head Tantawi and Salafist preacher Hassan

Ziad El-Eleimy
Ziyad El-Eleimy (Photo: Ahram)

Ashraf Thabet, deputy speaker of Egypt’s parliament, stated on Sunday night that MP Ziad El-Eleimy planned to issue a public apology on Monday for insulting Hussein Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling military junta, and prominent Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan. Thabet made the announcement on the Misr Toqarer ("Egypt Decides") television talk show on the Dream 2 satellite channel.

But El-Eleimy, for his part, says he has no plans to apologise, arguing that he never insulted either of the two men. In a statement on his Facebook page on Monday he said he would simply reiterate in Parliament what he had said earlier, namely, that he saw "no shame in apologising if my colleagues and the Egyptian people believe an insult had been caused by me."

El-Eleimy, a founding member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, was referred to a parliamentary investigation on Sunday after refusing to apologise for his statements, which, he said, had been misunderstood. El-Eleimi's comments about the ruling military council caused an outcry after he referenced a well-known Egyptian proverb in which Tantawi was understood by some to have been characterised as a donkey.

El-Eleimy defended his statements about the military council, stressing that the proverb had simply been used to imply that the council should be held accountable for its perceived mismanagement of Egypt's post-revolution political scene in general and the 1 February Port Said football tragedy in particular.

Further stirring controversy, El-Eleimy was also understood by some to have referred to influential Salafist preacher Mohamed Hassan as a "vegetable seller" and asserting that "not everyone with a beard should be regarded as a sheikh." El-Eleimy was also said to have attacked Hassan and the latter's proposal to replace annual US financial assistance to Egypt with donations from wealthy Egyptians.

El-Eleimy, however, insists that his statements had only meant that the poor should not be asked to pay for the government, but rather that the government should support the poor.

Late Sunday evening, El-Eleimy met with Hassan in an attempt to explain that no insult had been intended. At the meeting, attended by several other MPs, Hassan said he had not taken El-Eleimy's comments as an insult and that, on the contrary, he considered the leftist MP "a brother."

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