London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Muntasser al Zayat, a lawyer defending Islamist extremists in Egypt and a candidate in Wednesday’s parliamentary elections, expressed misgiving about his chances, as he was competing against candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood and the ruling National Party in the Bulaq Dakrur district in Cairo .
In a telephone conversation with Asharq al Awsat, al Zayat indicated that, despite the difficulties he faced in his campaigning, he remained “at ease”.
“I am running for parliament at a time when the Islamic project is no longer at the forefront of politics. Even the Muslim Brotherhood representatives in the last parliament did not present the Islamic project for consideration as Sheikh Salah Abu Ismail had done”, al Zayat said.
Despite not wanting to stand in the same district as a candidate form the Muslim Brotherhood, “as we both believe that Islam is the solution”, al Zayat indicated “I failed to convince the organization to withdraw its candidate.”
“I have spoken to individuals in coffee shops and spoken to them about Islam, about change, about our readiness to withstand foreign invasion and neo-colonialism which has occupied Iraq and Afghanistan and is about to invade Syria and Iran and threatens Iran . This requires us to reconsider Islam and apply it in our country as a barrier against foreign military and cultural invasions”, he added.
His campaign also featured gatherings in the streets of Cairo and meetings in its coffee shops where he received popular support since, al Zayat pointed out, “the Egyptian people are religious and support religious individuals.”
Commenting on his election program, the Islamist lawyer said, “I do not promise the impossible as I do not have a magic stick. I do not have money and do not buy votes. I only have my history, my reputation and my past campaigns” to support my candidature.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is worried that Islamists from outside its ranks will succeed and form a rival bloc in political life and the next election. I was flexible and ready to reach a middle-ground agreement with the Brotherhood but they did not treat me right. I said let us refer to a neutral side who will decide which one of us stands and who withdraws his candidacy but the Brotherhood have yet to respond.”
Al Zayat and the Muslim Brotherhood, who is fielding a rival candidate in today’s parliamentary elections, disagreed on a number of issues, namely that the group “did not apply enough effort in the outgoing parliament to implement Islamic Shariaa (law).”
Commenting on his dispute with the group, the Islamist lawyer said, “I am not attacking the Bortherhood, did not rebel against them and have not condemned their program. I am only trying to let the public know the truth. I still consider them a significant political force with
a range of capabilities. I do not criticizing the right of individuals to appreciate them given they have 75 years of giving behind them. However, they should have incorporated men like me especially as I only harbor good feelings towards them.”
On the subject of his campaign financing, al Zayat said, “I am not rich and have no made a fortune defending Islamists for over 20 years. My wife’s brothers who are former [Gamaa members] have spent money on my election campaign. A Christian Coptic businessman, the engineer Osama Ramses Toufic has volunteered to print my election posters. Sameh Ashur, the president of the lawyer’s union, despite also running, helped me to print a number of campaign materials at his expense.”
A former member of Gamaa Islamiya which he joined in the 1970s, al Zayat praised the position of lawyers in his district. “Lawyers in Bulaq Dakrur and al Umraniyah have been very supportive, in conferences, talks, and street gatherings. I was honored to be given the title of the lawyers” candidate in the district. Lawyers represent a significant force with more that 6,000 living in Bulaq and Umraniyah.