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Religion cannot be used for political ends: Egypt's Sabbahi

Opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi says longstanding Islamist practice of using places of worship for electioneering should be formally outlawed and subject to prosecution

Ahram Online, Sunday 20 Jan 2013
Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi (Photo: AP)

Former presidential candidate and founder of the Popular Egyptian Current movement Hamdeen Sabbahi on Saturday called for the prosecution of anyone found using places of worship for electoral campaigning in the run-up to Egypt's parliamentary polls.

During an interview with prominent television anchor Mahmoud Saad on NAhar TV, Sabbahi – whose Popular Current intends to contest upcoming elections under the umbrella of the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) – called on Egypt's poor to stop parliamentary candidates from exploiting their votes to achieve political ends in the name of religion.

Islamist parties have long been accused of using mosques and religious discourse to persuade voters to cast ballots for their candidates.

In advance of Egypt's post-revolution constitutional referendum on 19 March 2011, Islamist figures reportedly warned voters that those who voted against proposed constitutional amendments would 'go to hell.'  

"There are parties who have exploited [the notion of] Islamic Law more than they have served it," Sabbahi asserted.

Sabbahi went on to stress that Egypt's political opposition "holds no grudge" against the forces of political Islam, nor was it opposed – as has been alleged by some – to Islamic Law.

"All protests scheduled for 25 January in Tahrir Square and in squares throughout the country will not be due to feelings of resentment towards the Brotherhood, but rather out of love for Egypt and in support of the rights of the poor and the blood of the martyrs," Sabbahi stated.

On the upcoming polls, Sabbahi stressed that the NSF – of which he is a leading member – would not take part unless 11 conditions intended to guarantee fair and transparent polling were met.

"We want to ensure unbiased monitoring of the elections," he said. "If these demands aren't met we will chose a different path."

Sabbahi also expressed disappointment with the performance of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from which the president hails, accusing them of abusing the trust of the Egyptian people.

"President Morsi is a prisoner of and subordinate to an authority more sovereign than he is – that is, the Muslim Brotherhood's Guidance Bureau," Sabbahi said. He added that Morsi was "not a representative of the revolution and is only serving the Muslim Brotherhood."

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