Egyptian Salafist preacher Mohammed Hassan has called for the replacement of U.S. aid to Egypt with local donations, Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported on Wednesday.
Egypt receives around $1.3 billion annually in military aid from the U.S. government but Washington has threatened to cut off the flow of money after Cairo charged 43 activists, including 19 Americans, with violating laws regulating the operation of NGOs.
Accusations against the activists include working for organizations not properly registered in Egypt and receiving foreign funds illegally.
Egypt, as one of the main recipients of U.S. aid worldwide receives military assistance in the form of arms and services including maintenance.
Hassan explained that his idea comes in response to what he called American “humiliation” of Egypt.
“If America wants to cut military aid, very well; Egypt isn’t less than Iran which is self-dependent when it comes to producing its own military equipment,” Hassan said. “The Egyptian people will not be broken anymore.”
Hassan received support for his statement by two Islamist lawmakers, Mohamed Selim El-Awwa ad Abdel Moneim Aboul Foutuh.
Aboul Foutuh was quoted as saying that the aid served U.S. interests rather than being granted for charity purposes.
Meanwhile El-Awwa said Hassan’s initiative would prevent interference in Egypt’s internal affairs.
On Tuesday the dispute further escalated when state-run Egyptian newspapers accused the U.S. of spreading anarchy.
Based on remarks by Minster of International Cooperation Faiza Abul Naga, Al Gomhuria newspaper declared on its front page “American is behind the anarchy.”
While the front page of Al Ahram newspaper read “American funding aims to spread anarchy in Egypt.”
In her remarks made in October but revealed only this week, Abul Naga linked between what she saw as the surge in U.S. funding for civil society groups in 2011 and the attempt to steer the course of the post-Hosni Mubarak transition in “a direction that realized American and Israeli interests.”
“All the indications show that there was a clear desire to abort any chance for Egypt to emerge as a modern democratic state with a strong economy," she was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency, adding that that would be a threat to “American and Israeli interests.”
Last week, Egypt’s ruling military council released a statement stressing that relations with the U.S. were government by common interest of both parties and “Egypt does not bow to the domination of anyone.”
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Tuesday to urge Egypt to “immediately cease its intimidation and prosecution” of democracy activists. The chairman of the panel, Senator John Kerry, said lawmakers were “sending a signal that American patience is being tested” in Egypt.
The row is one of the worst in over 30 years of close U.S.-Egyptian ties and has complicated Washington's efforts to establish relations with the military council that took power from Mubarak after his overthrow in a popular revolt a year ago.
(Written by Sara Ghasemilee)