Amr Khaled: Return of the Preacher Man

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The Egyptian televangelist believed that announcing the formation of a third party is necessary, in order to be able to gather all those who believe that the results do not represent them. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

By: Abdel Rahman Youssef

Published Thursday, June 14, 2012

Egyptian television preacher Amr Khaled is back on the television screen. He mixes politics and development, invites the fuloul (remnants of the old regime), and plays the game of “neutrality,” losing many of his followers in the process.

Time and time again, Egyptian television preacher Amr Khaled proves that he is capable of inciting controversy through his statements and pronouncements. They are often received by his fans and followers with puzzlement and discontent, splitting them into two opposing camps.

A split followed his departure from Egypt to the UK for no apparent reason. Then it expanded when he visited Denmark following the debacle of the cartoons that mocked Prophet Mohammad.

It continued until the conference he held in Alexandria following the 2010 parliamentary elections, where he cooperated with one of former ministers and National Democratic Party candidate Abdel Salam Mahjoub’s organizations in a conference with Muslim Brotherhood cadre Sobhi Saleh. Controversy continued to hover around him after he made some questionable statements on theology, in addition to taking an unclear position on the revolution.

These events were disjointed and disparate. But this time, in less than 10 days, Amr Khaled took three consecutive positions which shocked a large segment of his fans and followers.

The first was his announcement of a new political party under the name of “Egypt’s Future.” In a video statement, Khaled said the party “represents a third way in Egypt” and it was a reaction to the “results of the Egyptian presidential elections.”

He said this came after receiving calls from many Egyptians around the world and inside the country “crying and shocked about the results, and asking what they should be doing.”

Khaled maintained that following meditation, he understood that the secret of the first-round winners – Mohammed Mursi and Ahmed Shafik – lies in the fact that “each has a large, huge, and organized campaign spread all over Egypt, and not just media presence.”

The Egyptian televangelist believed that announcing the formation of a third party is necessary, in order to be able to gather all those who believe that the results do not represent them.

A quick look at Khaled’s recent history clears up any confusion about the founding of this new party party. Its creation actually began more than a year ago.

Legal activist and leader in al-Reyada Party, engineer Haitham Abu Khalil, told Al-Akhbar that the name of the party announced by Khaled is that of a party that went into negotiations for its establishment in March and April 2011.

The representative of the founders at that time was Dr. Mohamed Yehia, head of the board of trustees of the Life Makers project and a very close to Khaled.

The negotiations took place with the al-Nahda party headed by Ibrahim al-Zaafarani and Mohamed Habib, both former Muslim Brotherhood officials, in addition to al-Reyada headed by Khaled Dawood and Mohamed Haykal, also former Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

According to Abu Khalil, proceedings were underway to unite the parties together under one name. He explained that the alliance was delayed due to differences about the new party’s high commission and executive office.

Abu Khalil indicates that Amr Khaled was not visible in the negotiations. He had welcomed the idea but without announcing his role. Abu Khalil was surprised when he saw Khaled announcing the party, when Yehia was the person in charge of negotiating the issue with them.

Yehia has an explanation for this: “There is spiritual concurrence between Khaled and I, but in large projects that require a setup and mass communication with the audience, Khaled keeps a distance at the beginning until the project is set away from the media.”

“When it is completed, the preparations teams take one step back and Khaled takes one forward, to achieve the right impact on the audience,” he explains.

Yehia revealed to Al-Akhbar that Khaled was a member in Egypt’s Future since day one. He maintained that negotiations with the two other parties continue. He also revealed “ongoing negotiations with [Mohamed] el-Baradei and [Abdel Moneim] Abul-Fotouh to combine all these projects to become the largest political project in Egypt, to ensure a healthy democratic life.” Baradei and Abul-Fotouh have yet to confirm this.

Political and strategic affairs researcher Mohamed al-Arabi is also surprised about Amr Khaled’s announcement that his party is “developmental” and wondered about “the purpose of establishing a political entity in the name of development.”

Socio-political researcher Ismail al-Iskandarani expected the party’s future to be “troublesome, since politics is based on partisanship while Khaled clings to a fantasy of impartiality and coexistence with everyone, even if they are diametrically opposed.”

Amr Khaled’s second controversy came with his announcement a few days ago of the Egypt’s People Forum, a collective that includes many experts and businessmen. It is meant to be a clearinghouse for economic, administrative, and developmental expertise.

On the surface, it sounds like a good idea, but for many of Khaled’s supporters, it was evidence of “softness and lack of clarity.” This is due to the presence of businessmen and leading members of the NDP, including former Mubarak ministers.

Iskandarani does not consider this unusual for Khaled. “The sphere where Khaled chose to act aims to uphold the conditions and interests of capitalists and upper classes, transforming its responsibility into a feeling of personal satisfaction and clear conscience, by taking handouts out of their pockets and giving them to the poor and deprived,” he said.

This led Khaled to adopt the same economic and social vision of Hosni Mubarak’s regime, while trying to avoid those who are notorious for the corruption.

But he fell into the grip of the imams of corruption who legislated its mechanisms without necessarily taking part directly, such as Abdessalam al-Mahjoub, a former minister and governor of Alexandria.

Abu Khalil, on the other hand, believes that Khaled is including the fuloul in the forum to “protect private development projects. For them, he is a good and socially acceptable facade, especially when it comes to young people. They will use it to reintroduce themselves to public opinion.”

Mohamed Yehia, Khaled’s mastermind, commented on the criticisms with astonishment. “Why all the resentment? Everything is according to its role. The party has nothing to do with the forum,” he told Al-Akhbar.

Yehia explains that the presence of many NDP leaders and former ministers in the forum serves the aim of collecting experts and information that came into their possession during their time in office. It is the property of all Egyptians and not just theirs.

“If we could invite Mubarak to be a member, we would have done so,” he added. He believes that “even if they were fuloul, they could love Egypt or God.”

Khaled’s hat-trick came in an interview on the CBC, when he declined to announce his position on the second round of presidential elections. He considered the situation to be a “fitna (‘sedition’) similar to that between Ali and Muawiyah” so he decided “to resign from the fitna like Abdullah Ibn Umar.”

This caused a wave of indignation and anger among his followers, especially those close to the Islamist current who rejected the equation of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi and the former regime’s candidate Ahmed Shafik.

Arabi considers this rhetoric “a continuation of the policy of abstention adopted by Amr Khaled at many critical junctures. This will lead to a reaction that cannot be positive due to the sharp political polarization in the Egyptian street which requires clear-cut positions.”

Arabi concludes by saying that Khaled’s return “seems to be consistent with the Islamists’ rise in post-revolutionary Egypt.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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