Hazem Salah Abu Ismaïl, the salafi candidate who could not run for President

posters in Cairo in April, several shapes and sizes, the campaign was full-on even though it was not yet legal.

Due to the administrative electoral regulations, Hazem Abu Ismaïl was prevented from being a candidate. But he was one of the most popular candidates, and not only among salafists.

The Electoral Committe banned him from the presidential race because his mother held an American passport a few years before her death.
But Hazem’s supporters were very determined to have him run anyway. They did sit-ins in Tahrir Square and then went to the Ministry of Defence in Abasseya. They claimed that the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) did not want him to run for president because they did not like his islamic-society oriented ideas. They said that it was a plot from the SCAF and the US. They thought his mother bever held an American passport, and that, even if she did, it was a very weak reason to ban him from the election.

At the beginning of May at the sit-in in Abbasseya, around twenty people died in clashes with unkown hired thugs, irate residents of the area or plain-clothed policeman, as the victims claimed.

Curiously enough, he did not attract only salafists – who thought, if indeed islam was applied fully on earth, as in the times of the Prophet, everything would then become perfect, there would be no poverty left, no corruption etc. Liberals liked his “islamist nasserism”, as blogger and longtime analyst of Egyptian political affairsMahmoud Salem called it. Mahmoud Salem ran as a parliamentary candidate last year on the ticket of the Free Egyptians Party.

Hazem was the candidate of three things: revolution, islam, and “dignity”.
This last motto was also Nasser’s one. The implication, according to Mahmoud Salem, was “we’re gonna stand up to the West.”
He also had a very strong social side, he speaks a lot of poverty and managed to convince some people that he would actually be more useful than a socialist like Hamdeen Sabahi.

According to political analyst Khalil al Anani, his “political discourse was unlike anything else that could be heard in the Egyptian scene. It rests on three chief ideological and emotive levers — Salafism, revolution and universalism — creating a hybrid that we might call metaphorically “revolutionary Salafism” which has attracted tens of thousands of followers. On the one hand, it has struck the right chords with large segments of Islamist youth because it brandishes the torch of the “Islamist project”, which conventional Islamists had set aside as they entered the narrower corridors of national politics and made political and ideological “compromises”, as Abu Ismail’s supporters put it. On the other hand, it is filled with tirades against the US and Israel (or against “prostrating” before the enemy, in the words of one of the sheikh’s supporters), which drew in wider audiences.”
he was famous before, as “during the five years before the revolution, he was a permanent guest on Islamist (specifically Salafist) satellite TV talk shows, which gathered huge audiences in Egypt and which developed into a major source of influence and wealth for numerous preachers across the diverse shades of the Salafist school. These shows offered Abu Ismail a forum to address ever-widening audiences among the youth and in popular quarters who were looking for a person with his specifications (modernist in performance, Salafist in appearance, and popularist in speech).” He also took advantage of a wider “”Salafisation” and “religification” of society. “Islamism” is no longer a condition for “religiosity” and visa versa. In other words, one does not have to be an Islamist (in the sense of espousing a formal system of Islamic values and an Islamist project for political and social change) in order to belong to one of the Islamist political parties or movements. All people need to do is rally around a specific sheikh or follow a specific religious channel. It is therefore not surprising to see the rapid proliferation of emblems of religiosity in daily life (untrimmed beards, the increase in religious activities, the use of religious vocabulary in daily behavioural patterns, such as Islamic ringtones for mobile phones).” (Khalil al Anani)


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