Men pray and read the Koran at Al-Azhar Mosque, in the old Islamic area of Cairo May 8, 2014. (REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
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CAIRO: As the Egyptian state presses its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the man expected to become president has deployed a new weapon in the battle with the Islamists: his own vision of Islam.Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who deposed the Brotherhood's Mohammad Morsi and is expected to be elected president later this month, has cast himself as a defender of religion and taken aim at the doctrinal foundations of Islamist groups the state is seeking to crush.Striking a pious tone that sets him apart from former President Hosni Mubarak, Sisi also appears to be taking on the mantle of a religious reformer. Sisi has said there is no such thing as a "religious state" – challenging a central Islamist concept.As the authorities try to curb Islamist influence by tightening control over mosques, Sisi's presidency could bring a sustained effort to reinforce state-backed, apolitical Islam, providing religious cover for destroying his Islamist foes.Yasser Abdel-Aziz, a columnist who has met Sisi and followed his comments on religion, describes Sisi as a typically "moderate Egyptian" Muslim, distinguishing his approach, for example, from the puritanical Wahabism of Saudi Arabia.Members of the Muslim Brotherhood accuse Sisi of manipulating religion for political gain – the same charge that was made against them.
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