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Al-Awa was arrested in 1965 for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but he denies ever being a part of the organization. He wants to preserve Article 2 of the Egyptian constitution, which makes Sharia the principal source of legislation. He is also the former secretary-general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, whose chairman is Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi. Many other Brotherhood members sit on the board of directors. These ties have made some experts believe that he is the Brotherhood’s shadow candidate, as the organization has promised not to field an official candidate.
He has made several other worrisome statements that contradict his credentials as a moderate. In 2006, he praised female suicide bombers targeting Israel. He criticized a fatwa that said women should not become terrorists because their duty is to give birth and raise children. “What if she never gets married?” al-Awa asked. “What is more important: The right of countries to be liberated from the colonialists, or the right of a woman to get married and give birth? If this can be called a right at all, because it may or may not happen…but, Allah be praised, eventually people ignored this fatwa,” he said.
He has also fomented anger and fear toward the Coptic Christian minority and Israel. He said that the Christians are “stocking arms and ammunition in their churches and monasteries,” and alleged that the armed Copts want a civil war in order to divide Egypt. Al-Awa also promotes the idea that Israel is trying to sabotage the Egyptian revolution. Al-Awa has since denied accusing the Copts of stockpiling weapons, and has condemned violence against them.
An al-Awa presidency would also be a major threat to Israel. In discussing the violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims, he said, “I believe very strongly that the ones behind this criminal act are Zionist intelligence agents, whether deceived or deceiving Egyptians, or non-Egyptians.” He proclaimed, “The decline and fall of Israel is closer than people expect since Israel is a cruel and racist entity…we must get ready for the post-demise period.”
It’s appealing for the West to find someone that promotes the idea of compatibility between Islam and Western democracy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the messenger is a friend. A “moderate” who promotes Sharia-based governance, supports suicide bombings and instigates against Israel and Coptic Christians is no “moderate” at all.
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