The Copts’ case for supporting Aboul FotouhPosted: March 27, 2012
There are reliable reports of several high level Coptic bishops who argued for supporting the presidential candidacy of Aboul Fotouh. On the face of it this seems a paradoxical position for those advocating a secular state. He is hardly a paragon of secularism. On a closer look that might be a difficult yet responsible position. First we need to get over the belief that there are ideal candidates. There are none. We need to look for the least damaging option, especially for those Copts who are directly affected by the state, public sector employees, small businessmen and farmers. Some Coptic hot heads argue that this is simply foolish, giving in to someone who is basically a more polished version of the run-of-the-mill Islamist. The problem with that argument is that the alternative might be a run-of-the-mill Islamist. There are multiple reasons to take the responsible position of supporting Aboul Fotouh:
1- He was ejected from the MB by the Khairat El-Shater and his crew. If elected president he will serve as a serious check on this very dangerous man.
2- He advocates no restrictions by gender or religion on all state positions. We do not know what is in his heart, and in any case Egypt is not about to elect a woman or a Copt, so what he actually believes is irrelevant. What he says is important because it sets a precedent for tolerance.
3- Egypt is a country where 25% of the people voted for a burlesque show of Salafis. If unchecked, a Salafi extremist could actually become president. Then what? What levels of coercion will be imposed on the Copts by such a president? What wacky adventures he might get into resulting in International opprobrium and resulting economic collapse might he cause? Would we be looking at a coup and more decades of dreary military rule?
4- Aboul Fotouh is openly Islamist, probably palatable to most Egyptians who have grown religious. Yet he might pave the way for a future condominium between a lightly coercive Islamism and true secularism. As a transitional figure, or one of many such figures, he is probably not a bad option.
5- He is both mature and young, in his late 50’s. Egypt needs vigor. No more old men.
6- He is a professional (a doctor), not from a military or a political background. Both establishments have failed Egypt badly.
7- He has never been accused of serious crimes (unlike El-Shater who was accused of trying to form a militia, perhaps falsely).
8- He might actually bring transparency to the Muslim Brotherhood, and may even lift the reign of fear under which its members have difficulty voicing criticism or demanding change.
9- He is internationally palatable. Just try to imagine the alternative of Abu Ismael shaking hands with Angela Merkel, for the sake of not so comic relief.
10- He is forthright and bold and will likely earn the trust of many middle level military officers, who will in the next decade or two take reigns of the military and will need to be kept firmly within the civilian oversight.
11- He articulates a message of social justice that does not come off as either alien or overly socialistic to Egyptian ears.
12- Those who personally know him attest to his personal probity. He had the courage as a young man to tell Sadat the obvious, that he was surrounded by sycophants.
13- He attracts a cadre of young professionals. These are the people Egypt needs to build an economically viable future.
14- He can win.