Egyptian president's warning against political Islam

 Herald Tribune 

CAIRO, Egypt: Egypt's largest opposition movement, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, rebutted on Friday accusations by President Hosni Mubarak that the fundamentalist group poses a national security threat, saying his claims are aimed at stirring fears in the Egyptian public. 

Mubarak warned in an interview that the Muslim Brotherhood could threaten foreign investment and isolate Egypt from the world if it gained political ground. "The outlawed Brotherhood group is a danger to Egypt's security because of its religious discourse," Mubarak told the weekend edition of the independent Al-Osboa newspaper. 

"Many would take their money and run away from the country; investment would stop and unemployment would increase" if the Brotherhood came to power, Mubarak warned. 

"Egypt would be totally isolated from the world," he said. The movement's deputy leader described Mubarak's warnings as fear-mongering geared at "covering up" to prepare for his son's succession.

Opposition parties say 78-year-old Mubarak is changing the Egyptian constitution to pave the way for his son Gamal, 43, to succeed him. "It's a whole campaign of fear mongering to the public, aimed at marginalizing us," deputy Brotherhood leader Mohammed Habib told The Associated Press. 

The Brotherhood's third top leader and more than 100 group members have been detained since December and Habib said the state crackdown was aimed at diverting attention from ongoing discussions in parliament to amend 34 articles of the constitution. 

Authorities were not immediately available to comment on this, but say the arrests were made because the Brotherhood staged a military-style protest. 

Mubarak's ruling party says the constitutional amendments discussed in parliament are part of an ambitious political reform program and would make it easier for candidates to run for president. But some of the amendments would effectively hinder the Brotherhood's ability to compete in presidential and legislative elections. 

The militant Muslim group denies accusations it wants to establish a hard-line Islamic regime in Egypt. "When we talk about Islam, we don't talk about monopoly of clergymen or discriminating against the non-Muslims, but about a secular state on Islamic grounds," Habib said. However, many critics, including Egypt's secular opposition groups, say the Brotherhood's agenda is ambivalent and fear the group's strict adherence to Islamic Sharia law could curb civil liberties.

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