Born to a Turkish family in Cairo, Ihsanoglu is an academic and diplomat who is backed by the secular nationalist parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
After receiving an MSc at Cairo’s prestigious Al Azhar University he moved on to Ankara University for a PhD.
Working on the relationship between science and religion and Islam’s relations with the West, he founded the Department of History of Science at the Faculty of Letters of Istanbul University and was its head from 1984-2003.
In 2005 he became secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, leaving the post in January this year.
Although he is backed by five Kemalist parties, which defend the legacy of modern Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, many of their supporters consider him too conservative, leading to speculation that their voters may not cast their ballots for him.