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Brotherhood’s Mursi Lauds Women Ahead of Egypt Runoff Vote

The Muslim Brotherhood’s presidential hopeful said Egyptian woman are entitled to the same rights as men under the law and lauded women’s role in society as he headed into a presidential runoff race in less than two weeks.

Mohammed Mursi said in a televised news conference that women’s rights are guaranteed under the law and that women provide a key contribution to Egyptian society. The comments mark Mursi’s push to win over secularists and others who fear that a win by him in the presidential runoff, slated to begin June 16, would lead to the imposition of Islamic law and curtail the rights of women.

“I’m not saying this because of the elections,” Mursi said.

Mursi is running against ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s last premier, Ahmed Shafik, who is reviled by youth groups and others who spearheaded last year’s uprising against Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s candidate has sought to refashion his image ahead of the runoff against Shafik, reaching out to the country’s Coptic Christian minority and women. Mursi said he has “real intentions” to appoint a Christian vice president.

His rival, Shafik, has argued that Mursi represents a return to an era of “darkness,” and that electing Mursi would amount to a proxy presidency by the Brotherhood -- a claim the Islamist has denied.

‘Behind a Curtain’

“If Mursi is elected, who will rule Egypt? Who will be Egypt’s real ruler, the murshid or Khairat el-Shater?” Shafik said on June 3, referring to the Brotherhood’s top religious official and the group’s first choice for the presidency, who was later disqualified from the race. “Will Egypt’s president be the one elected, or a president behind a curtain?”

Mursi listed a litany of challenges confronting Egypt, including illiteracy rates. The Brotherhood’s candidate said there was a difference between illiteracy and ignorance, stressing that Egyptian women “are not ignorant.”

Mursi stayed close to traditional Islamist doctrine today, extolling what he said were the virtues of Egyptian society while making clear that he was not criticizing others.

“Societies abroad have a lot to learn from women in Egypt,” he said. “We have far fewer problems than societies that claim their women have full rights.”

He said that while women in other countries had the option of not listing the father of their children on their birth certificates, “we don’t have that” in Egypt.

“We have no concept of child or domestic abuse, or family dysfunction in terms of separated” couples or those “living together,” he said.

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