Salafi presidential candidate says Egypt must follow Israel’s casino policy


Salafist candidate for Egypt’s presidential election, Sheikh Hazim Salah Abu Ismail, has spoken against the practice of taking taxes from casinos and night clubs and shown his support for art and cinema at a time when fears loom of Islamists suppressing the arts if they come to power.

“Israel has banned taxing gambling because it is against Judaism, while Egypt makes money from belly dancers entertaining drunk men,” Abu Ismail told Al Arabiya.

Ismail said if he wins the presidency, he will make economic leaps without resorting to such tactics, adding that he will use Israel as an example.

“I have seen cities in the United States where its people try to raise money to buy casinos which they convert to other businesses in a bid to keep their cities gambling-free and to make Las Vegas as the only American city for such activities to occur,” he said, adding “conservative Americans do not accept such activities in their cities.”

“If we want to just go after money, then we should allow prostitution, right?” he said. “We should honor Egyptians’ dignity… no Egyptian should be humiliated, and this won’t make the country poor but it will increase its income, and God is above all.”

Tourism in Egypt in considered to be one of the most important sectors to the country’s economy. The sector also employs about 12 percent of Egypt’s workforce.

Early indications show that Ismail is a serious contender for the upcoming elections which has over 100 people vying for the presidency.

The Salafist has been described as politically savvy and won the hearts of many Coptic Egyptians when he offered condolences to the community on the death of Pope Shenouda III who passed away on March 17. His condolences were in accordance to the Coptic traditions.

Observers have long expressed fears of an Islamist in the presidency, saying it will suppress the art scene in the country but Ismail has shown great support. He said that Egypt, which is considered to be the Arab world’s Hollywood, should not lose its competitive advantage to countries such as Syria and UAE. He also cited the example of Iran which is competing with French cinema and racking up prestigious awards.

Ismail so far enjoys popular support while some say that he has far more support than the former Arab League chief Amro Mousa, who become the first presidential candidate by collecting 45,000 proxies for his campaign.

Egyptian presidential elections law stipulate that in order to be a candidate, a hopeful should get at least 30,000 proxies from citizens from 15 provinces or collect 30 signatures from the country’s People’s Assembly and Shura Council.

(Translated from Arabic by Dina al-Shibeeb)