New hospitals priority, not mosques, churches: Abul-Fotouh

Zeinab El Gundy, Thursday 29 Mar 2012

Moderate Islamist presidential candidate sets out vision for Egypt; promises no special privileges for Brotherhood; health, education priority

Abu El Fatouh during the lecture
Abu El Fatouh during the lecture (Photo:Zeinab El Guindy)

Presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh on Wednesday said the Muslim Brotherhood would not receive special privileges if he became president and that Egypt needed more farms, factories and hospitals, not new mosques or churches.

The moderate Islamist, who was expelled from the Brotherhood when he announced his intention to stand for the presidency, made the comments at a lecture organised by the Catholic Jesuit School and attended by a predominantly Christian audience.

The lecture opened with a minute's silence for the recently deceased Coptic Christian Pope Shenouda III and developed into a lively discussion about citizenship, Islamism, the Muslim Brotherhood, the economy and a range of other topics.

When questioned on his controversial departure from the Brotherhood, Abul-Fotouh said, "I had already decided to resign from the Brotherhood when I decided to run for the presidency."

"If I become president, there will be no privileges for the Brotherhood," he added, earning applause from the audience. He also criticised the media for claiming there was a war between him and the group. "My only enemies are the enemies of Egypt," he said.

He vowed not to interfere in the building of churches but added that what the country really needed was not more religious buildings, but rather "farms, factories and hospitals."

In response to a question on citizenship, he said, "Any Egyptian has full citizenship rights regardless of his religion or ethnicity and all citizens have the same duties and rights."

He went on to say that the Mubarak regime discriminated against minority groups and was responsible for the Two Saints Church bombing in Alexandria, which killed 21 people on New Year's Eve 2010.

Abul-Fotouh revealed he would announce his electoral programme after submitting his candidacy papers to the Higher Presidential Elections Commission on Thursday.

Health and education would be his priority as president. He believes in free education and would adopt the Cuban model of fighting illiteracy, he said. He also revealed that he would implement a full health insurance system.  

Regarding the constituent assembly, he said the media had exaggerated the danger of Islamists forcing through radical changes to the constitution.

The last question he answered was from a professor from South Sudan about Egypt-South Sudan relations. Abul-Fotouh criticised the Mubarak regime's handling of the situation in South Sudan and said Egypt must begin a new era with the newly formed country. He also condemned Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for leading a military regime that used religion to justify its oppressive policies.

Abul-Fotouh repeated his accusations that unnamed presidential candidates were being funded from abroad.

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