The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for Egypt's presidency is lobbying hard for support of ultraconservative Muslim clerics, promising them a say over legislation in the future to ensure it is in line with Islamic law, as he tries to rally the divided Islamist vote behind him.
Khairat el-Shater met for four hours Tuesday night with a panel of Salafi scholars and clerics, called the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, trying to win their support.
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The discussion focused on "the shape of the state and the implementation of Shariah," the commission said on its Facebook page Wednesday.
"El-Shater stressed that Shariah is his top and final goal and that he would work on forming a group of religious scholars to help parliament achieve this goal," the statement read. The commission is an umbrella group of Islamist factions, mostly Salafis, set up after last year's anti-Mubarak uprising.
The promise resembled an item in a 2007 political platform by the Brotherhood, when it was still a banned opposition movement. It called for parliament to consult with a body of clerics on legislation to ensure it aligns with Shariah. The proposal was met with a storm of condemnation at the time, and the Brotherhood backed off of it.
El-Shater also said he plans to implement reforms within the Interior Ministry, which had a key role in the repression of Egypt's opposition.
Earlier this week, the candidate for presidency met with a US Congress delegation in Cairo. During the meeting, Republican Congressman David Dreier said the United States would not interfere with the Egyptian people’s choice for president.
Egyptians should decide what kind of democracy they want, Dreier said, adding that El-Shater stressed his commitment to human rights and the rule of law.
A Muslim Brotherhood delegation is currently visiting the US to allay American concerns and present the movement as socially moderate.
The delegation's visit was set to culminate with a one-day conference on political Islam at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace Thursday in Washington.
POLITICO reported Wednesday that members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood met with US officials, including White House staffers.
"Following Egypt's revolution, we have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told POLITICO.
Meanwhile, Egypt's former spy chief and vice president Omar Suleiman announced Wednesday he would not run for president. "The country is going through one of the most difficult and important periods in its modern history," he said in the statement.
"I tried until dawn yesterday to overcome the obstacles I faced relating to the current situation and the administrative, organizational and financial requirements to become a candidate. However, I found them to be beyond my capacity to fulfill. If I do otherwise (try to overcome these obstacles) I would be betraying the principles I've believed in my whole life. Therefore, I apologize for not responding to your call, maybe for the first time ever, due to my desire to preserve my cherished past," Suleiman added.
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