CAIRO - Joining the race for Egypt's first free presidential elections since the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi is seen leading a conservative tone to win over Islamist votes.
There is no doubt that Morsi is more conservative than the conservatives in the Brotherhood, Mohamed Habib, a former deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told The New York Times on Tuesday, April 24.
Morsi, the leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, is among 13 candidates in the May election.
He is seen using conservative rhetoric to woo voters, who are willing to cast ballot for an Islamist candidate.
In his first rally on Saturday, Morsi argued that his party platform aims to instill Islamic values in the society.
This is the old Islam is the solution' platform, he said, recalling the group's traditional slogan in his first television interview as a candidate.
It has been developed and crystallized so that God could bless society with it.
Having a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of South California, Morsi was a spokesman of the Brotherhood's political wing for the past decade.
He replaced Khairat Al-Shater, who was the candidate of the Brotherhood but was disqualified from running in the May vote.
In his short-lived campaign, Shater has stressed the Brotherhood's plans for economic development, but he rarely brought up the issue of Shari`ah.
By contrast, Moris, 60, is campaigning explicitly both as a more conservative Islamist and as a loyal executor of Shater's plans.
At his first rally, the Brotherhood candidate even led supporters to chant The Qur'an is our constitution, and Shari`ah is our guide!
Conservative or Liberal The Brotherhood candidate is also trying to appeal to more conservative Salafis, whose popular candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail was disqualified.
Some want to stop our march to an Islamic future, where the grace of God's laws will be implemented and provide an honest life to all, he said Saturday at his rally.
Our Salafi brothers, the Islamic group, we are united in our aims and Islamic vision. The Islamic front must unite so we can fulfill this vision.
Abu-Ismail was disqualified because his mother had dual nationality.
However, the Brotherhood candidate faces a fierce competition from a more liberal Islamist, Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fotouh.
Aboul Fotouh, a pioneering leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who was expelled from the group last year, is campaigning now as the leading champion of liberal values in the race.
Addressing a crowd of thousands last week in Imbaba, a poor neighborhood of Cairo, Aboul Fotouh reverted to a different rhetoric on Shari`ah from that of his old group.
Egypt has been proud of its Islamic and Arabic identity for 15 centuries, he said.
Are we waiting for the Parliament to convert us?Besides, he said, the correct understanding of Islamic law should not be reduced to penalties or restrictions but should mean all mercy and justice.