CAIRO: During her appearance on the talk show “Manchet” with Gaber Al-Qarmouty, Islamic studies scholar, Souad Saleh stirred controversy after she said it is against the Islamic Sharia for a Christian to assume the presidential role in Egypt, seeing as it is a Muslim-majority country.
In Saleh’s opinion, Christians should be given the opportunity to occupy prestigious positions such as ministers and university heads, but not the top job, as it goes against Sharia. Pope Shenouda, she said, would agree with her adherence to her religion.
The scholar backed up her argument with a Quranic verse that described the relationship between Muslims and “infidels.”
“Leadership should be by a Muslim on an ‘infidel’ and not vice versa,” she said on the show, “that is why God allowed Muslim men to marry non-Muslim women and not vice versa.”
Her statements were met with critical comments from some callers on Manchet’s June 20 episode.
In a phone call, Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris said all Egyptians are equal under the law.
“No believer could be called an infidel, because we all believe in the same God, no matter what the different interpretations [of the Quran] are.”
Another caller, Salah Soliman, a prominent leading figure in the secular political party, Al-Wafd, agreed with Sawiris, saying that national unity between Christians and Muslims is one of the party’s main principles.
“We are tied by our citizenship and our duties to the nation,” Soliman said, as he protested Saleh’s views, saying that presidency is a political matter, devoid of religion.
As a professor of comparative jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University and a member of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Saleh’s recent decision to join Al-Wafd created controversy.
Many critics called Saleh a propagandist saying she would have been better off joining the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), according to Al-Qarmoty. But Saleh said the MB is marred with internal conflicts, unlike Al-Wafd, who are proving to be both peaceful and democratic, as was demonstrated by their latest internal elections.
Apart from being a member, Saleh is expected to hold a senior position on the religious affairs committee in the party, and also participate in the women’s committee, a duty she looks forward to, she said during her praise of the increasingly popular party.
But while her views on women’s rights in political participation may appear in line with the party’s agenda, she said her outlook is mainly based on Quran’s supportive view.
She argued that her opinions were purely from a religious, and not a political, perspective and that she was discussing matters as a scholar and not as a party or committee member.
“I would never change my religion or any of my religious principles in the name of any human principle,” Saleh said.