CAIRO (Reuters) -President Hosni Mubarak said the Muslim Brotherhood poses a threat to Egypt’s security and the country would face isolation in the world if the Islamist movement became more powerful.
In an interview released on Thursday, he said people would leave Egypt with their money, investment would stop and unemployment rise if the Brotherhood — the country’s strongest opposition group — gained in influence.
The authorities are carrying out one of their regular crackdowns on the Brotherhood, which the government refuses to recognize despite its electoral successes last year.
“The trend of the outlawed Brotherhood group poses a threat to Egypt’s security because it adopts a religious approach,” Mubarak told the weekly el-Osbu newspaper, which released the interview in advance of its publication.
“If we assume that there is a rise in this trend we will see a repeat in Egypt of other experiences … of regimes representing political Islam … and many would flee with their money, and investments would stop and unemployment would rise.”
“Egypt would be totally isolated from the world,” Mubarak said in some of his harshest criticism yet of the Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood, a broad Islamist movement dating back to the 1920s, holds 88 of the 454 seats in the lower house of parliament after its candidates competed as independents in last year’s elections.
State media have portrayed a martial arts display by protesting Islamist students last year as a sign of secret Brotherhood militarism, denied by the Islamists, and dozens of students have been detained.
The Brotherhood had a military wing in its early days but it gave up violence in favor of political activism after it was driven underground in the 1950s.
Mubarak focused his criticism on the possible economic effects of Brotherhood influence, drawing a parallel with events in other places where Islamists have won elections.
The president said this was why he is proposing to enshrine in the constitution a ban on political parties based on religion and the use of religious slogans in elections.
“We support a civil state in which everyone enjoys the rights of citizenship …, ” he added.
But officials of Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party say they have no intention of amending an article in the constitution which says that Islam is the religion of the state and sharia (Islamic law) is the main source of legislation.
Islamists have used the article in court and in arguments in support of their social agenda.
Analysts say the ruling party is thinking of changing the electoral rules to make it more difficult for Brotherhood candidates to compete in the future.