Presidential hopeful Mohamed Selim El-Awa (Photo:Ahram)
Presidential hopeful Mohamed Selim El-Awa denied being a Shia Muslim and confirmed he was a Sunni during a campaign tour in Sharqeya governorate Monday.
El-Awa’s statement came in response to the widely held belief that he was a Shia due to his promotion of dialogue between the two main branches of Islam.
Ultra-conservative Islamists have strongly criticised El-Awa for defending the right of Shia Muslims to practice their version of Islam, accusing him of exaggerating similarities and toning down differences between Sunnis and Shias.
Several Salafist leaders have warned their followers of a “Shia invasion” of Egypt.
Last week, however, influential Salafist preacher Yasser Borhami denied El-Awa was a Shia and described him as the best presidential candidate. Borhami maintained his criticism of El-Awa for defending Shias, saying, “He trusts their intentions and accepts their claims” when he should not.
A well-known Islamic thinker and writer, El-Awa has been in the limelight for several years and is considered a “moderate Islamist.”
He declared his intention to run for president in June 2011.
Presidential elections will take place on 23 and 24 May, and the president will be named on 21 June after a runoff voting round on 16 and 17 June.