Last Updated: Thu Apr 05, 2012 09:06 am (KSA) 06:06 am (GMT)

Raging battle over Egypt’s Caliphate

Mohsen Araishi

The present battle between Islamists over Egypt’s Caliphate (the presidency) is a striking repetition of Islamic history and of what had occurred more than thousand years ago. The Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) ambition to seize the nation’s caliphate is being threatened by a strong competitor: the phenomenal sheikh Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail.

Under its limitless geographical expansionist policies, the fundamentalist organisation is fighting for all seats of power in the country. The Muslim Brothers’ landslide victory (for certain reasons that will never be repeated) in the invasion of Parliament in 2011, has strengthened their ‘insatiable’ appetite for power.

Salivating over the prospect of grabbing even more power in this country, the MB were said to have groomed their leading member Khairat el-Shater to conquer scores of presidential palaces scattered across the country.

Tightening their grip on Egypt, the MB want to develop their expansionist policies westwards and eastwards to re-establish the Muslim Caliphate along the Mediterranean’s eastern and southern coast to envelop the European arch foe. But el-Shater the Conqueror should not expect that his ‘Battle of the Caliphate’ in May would be an easy task.

His main rivals include two Islamists: the MB secessionist Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh, who was expelled a few years ago for his exaggerated ambition. El-Shater the Conqueror’s second rival is Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu-Ismail, who constitutes a phenomenon in Egypt and beyond.

The ground must have shaken under the MB leaders’ feet when Abu-Ismail allegedly led a 10-kilometre-long procession to the headquarters of the Higher Presidential Elections Commission to officially declare ‘an invasion’ on Egypt’s presidency (the caliphate).

Thousands of his supporters, aka warriors, chanted slogans of Baiyaa (voting consent in Islam for one candidate). Awestruck eyewitnesses said that Abu-Ismail was chauffeured in a pitch black 4x4 vehicle. He is an influential pioneer in the Salafist community (diehard Muslim conservatives, who want to set the clock back to the early days of Islam).

But analysts in the rival camp explained that Abu-Ismail shrewdly decided to replace the camel with an expensive car as part of his temporary decision to compromise his outdated ideologies and thoughts in the quest for the top post.

He has also trimmed and shortened his beard, which used to cascade down his chest; he wears a three-piece razor-sharp expensive suit. Unlike his grim-faced and stern- looking rivals in the MB camp, ‘Abu Ismail the Phenomenon’ is brilliantly marketing his fresh face and irresistible smile to win the hearts of susceptible voters at home and abroad. Walls, buildings and every nook and cranny are covered with posters of the photogenic Abu-Ismail.

It’s likely some people exaggerated when claiming that Abu-Ismail’s posters were spotted on a newly discovered and unnamed planet in the remotest reaches of the universe. His statements are meant to win over the US and Israel. He has hinted at being deeply interested in copying Israel’s economic success story to stimulate Egypt’s ailing economy. By saying so, ‘Abu Ismail the Phenomenon’ must have thought that the end justified the means.

His alleged interest in Israel’s economic prosperity, regardless of its small population and natural resources, must have insulted his faith; implicating that Islam did not have the tools to revive the economy of a Muslim country. Just like his fundamentalist rivals in the ‘Battle over Egypt’s Caliphate’, ‘Abu Ismail the Phenomenon’ is sending incessant and reassuring messages to Copts to rally behind him. Estimated at 12 million, the Copts represent an influential voting bloc.

During his presidency, Hosni Mubarak forged an exceptional friendship with the then head of the Orthodox Church, Pope Shenouda III, to help him win five consecutive terms in office.

The battle between Muslim Brothers and Salafists over the presidency in Egypt has weakened both sides. Their hot pursuit of power has discredited their alleged divine call for the spread of Islam at home and abroad. More and more ordinary citizens are coming to the conclusion that underneath the gloss of long beards, white galabiyyas and voluble religious speeches there are men who salivate over the idea of power and hedonistic gain whatever their cost may be.

The writer is a prominent Egyptian columnist. The article was published in The Egyptian Gazette on Apr. 1, 2012

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