CAIRO - Admired for his staunch campaign for full civilian rule and protection of civil liberties, former Muslim Brotherhood leader Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futuh's moderate views are appealing to both Islamists and liberals to become Egypt's new president.
I felt Egypt needs to hear the core ideas of the left, but through an Islamist voice so it does not sound so alien, Rabab el-Mahdi, 37, a Marxist and feminist, told The New York Times on Wednesday, March 14.
A doctor by profession, Abul-Futuh, 60, is currently secretary-general of the Arab Doctors Union.
He holds an MA in hospital management and an LLM from Cairo University's Faculty of Law.
Abul-Futuh won strong support among young Egyptians over his criticism of the ruling military rulers over mismanaging the transitional period after the fall of president Hosni Mubarak.
His campaign for full civilian control of the military, the protection of civil liberties and government spending on healthcare and education has also given him a strong backing among young Islamists and liberals alike.
Egypt will hold the first round of the country's first democratic presidential election since Mubarak's ouster on May 23-24.
A runoff will be held on June 16 and 17 and the naming of a winner will be announced by June 21.
Abul-Futuh faces a strong competition from former Arab League chief and former foreign minister Amr Moussa, the frontrunner for Egypt's presidency.
Abul-Futuh first came to national attention as a student after challenging former president Anwar Al-Sadat over the removal of an imam from a major mosque.
He told the president that he was surrounded by sycophants and hypocrites.
Stand right there, stop, Sadat shouted.
I am standing, sir, Aboul Fotouh replied evenly.
Abul-Futuh spent more than six years in prison for his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Some liberals believe that Abul-Futuh's victory in Egypt's election will give a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Dr. Abul-Futuh is very dangerous for them a matter of life and death, Mahdi told The New York Times.
Abul-Futuh was expelled from the Muslim Brotherhood for defying the group's decision not to run in Egypt's presidential election.
However, the Islamist candidate still enjoys a strong support among young Brotherhood members.
Abul-Futuh also won support from some prominent Muslim scholars, including Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars.
Though the Muslim Brotherhood has not yet taken decision on supporting a candidate in the election, the group has threatened to expel any member who would support Abul-Futuh for presidency.
In his TV interviews, Abul-Futuh argues that the Muslim Brotherhood should stop calling itself Islamist and instead say it is conservative, since in an open society Islamists can also be moderate or liberal.
If he succeeds, it means the Brotherhood loses its monopoly on moderate Islam, Mahdi said.It shows that there is a multiplicity in Islam big enough to include Marxists and liberals. It tells their moderates that you can leave the Brotherhood and it is not the end of life.