By Salma Abdullah
Prime Minister Hesham Qandil rejected the resignation of Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou, Qandil said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Zaazou submitted his resignation in protest against the controversial appointment of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya member Adel El-Khayat as governor of Luxor.
Misr Al-Hurreya issued a statement announcing their participation in the protests taking place outside the governorate building. “We were hoping for a governor who would work on the prosperity of tourism and the protection of antiquities,” the statement read, saying that the criteria used to appoint the new governors was based not on their qualifications as the prime minister claimed, but rather on their loyalty to the ruling party.
The Egyptian Coalition to Support Tourism called upon the minister to take immediate action regarding the “catastrophe”, citing the potential a negative impact on the tourism sector, and saying that the minister’s silence reflected his acceptance of the decision.
Ihab Moussa, the organisation’s head, said they suggested switching Luxor’s governor with that of Al-Daqahleya, who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood but has an academic background in history and tourism. Their suggestion was ignored however. Moussa predicted President Mohamed Morsi “would not sacrifice Al-Jamaa Al-Isalamiya,” especially in the lead-up to planned 30 June protests.
Moussa announced that his organisation would be holding a protest on Thursday in front of the Ministry of Tourism, adding that “all those working in the tourism sector” would join.
Hundreds started a fire in front of Luxor governorate building to prevent Al-Khayat from entering on Wednesday. Islamist parties in Luxor, meanwhile, formed human chains in an attempt to allow his entry to the office, reported state-owned Al-Ahram.
Al-Khayat was arrested following the assassination of former President Anwar Al-Sadat for belonging to Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, the group which claimed responsibility for murdering 62 people in at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor in November 1997.
Al-Khayat denied his involvement in the 1997 attacks, saying that Al-Jamaa Al-Isalmyia was not responsible for the attack.
“I wish the tourism minister had given me a chance to explain my plan before judging me,” Al-Khayat told state television. He reassured workers in the tourism sector that he has a vision for Luxor and that his top priority is restoring the city’s touristic status.
“We aren’t seeking power,” said leading Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya figure Safwat Abdel- Ghany in a press conference on Wednesday. He added that Al-Khayat had put together “a great initiative to revive tourism” and that they would support him as long as he works in the country’s interest.
Abdel-Ghany said his organisation understands the importance of tourism and antiquities, explaining that they had held several conferences in the past few months in support of the industry.
“It is unfair to exclude someone from public service because he belongs to a certain Islamist party,” added fellow group member Aboud El-Zomor.
The group’s political advisor, Osama Roushdy, said during the press conference that the movement had renounced violence months before the attacks.
Roushdy claimed the media had insufficient information concerning the Luxor attacks, and that the media is “holding a campaign against them” because the media “don’t want Islamists interfering in politics.”
He mentioned that Al-Khayat was never jailed, and was even appointed as deputy minister. “They are terrorising people who belong to our party.”
On Sunday, Morsi appointed 17 new governors, including 7 from the Muslim Brotherhood. The opposition had strongly objected to their selection, accusing Morsi of attempting to tighten his grip on power before planned opposition protests on 30 June.