I have spent quite a long time trying to determine the definition of the term “collaborating” now being used across Egypt. I resorted to Arabic dictionaries and found that the word was innocent and neutral, as it is a derivative of the word “inform”, meaning exchanging information and discussing issues, so if two are collaborating, then they have spoken and discussed. I asked those in the legal field what they think and they said that the point is not in the principle of collaboration, as the law does not criminalise collaboration, but in its implications and consequences. In the first section of the second book of the Penal Code, Articles 77 and above, there is a detailed explanation of the penalties for collaborating with a foreign country depending on the intent of the person or the result of the action. They include the death penalty and life imprisonment with hard labour, may God save us from both.
Ousted Dr Mohamed Morsi is accused of collaborating with Hamas in his role as elected President of the republic, as he received Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Government of the Gaza Strip in the Presidential Palace. The US Secretary of Defence, meanwhile, made 17 telephone calls to Colonel Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi before the isolation of Dr Morsi on July 3, and The Washington Post published statements made by the Egyptian Intelligence Chief, General Mohammed Al-Tohami, in which he said that he is in constant contact with the Head of the CIA and that the two sides have strong understandings and a level of cooperation unmatched anywhere in the world.
I have no doubt that such a level of collaboration falls within the scope of each of their functional roles and responsibilities, but political considerations have made collaboration a crime for Dr Morsi whereas collaboration by the others is in the national interest.
My research was not intended to investigate the statements issued by the figures that I have referred to; my intentions were completely different. I was invited to a major conference in Jordan on Sunday to discuss the future of political Islam movements in the Arab world; also attending were researchers from 14 Arab countries as well as 150 invited politicians and academics. Some of the participants represented the movements in question. It is worth pointing out that this is a topic of concern for many research centres within and beyond the Arab world; indeed, the Centre for Arab Studies in Beirut called for a discussion session at the end of the month to debate the same topic, with a particular focus on the Egyptian situation. There are also preparations to hold similar conferences in some European countries and in America.
My role in the Amman conference was limited to presiding over one of the conference sessions that was scheduled to discuss “The opportunities and prospects for the future”. Three papers were presented, by an Iraqi, an Egyptian and a Jordanian.
This wouldn’t be worth mentioning if I hadn’t read a news article published by Al-Masry Al–Youm on 13 November on its front page headed “Fugitive Secretary- General of the Muslim Brotherhood in an international Islamic conference in Jordan”. The report gave details of the conference and included the programme on its social networking page. I did not know that the Brotherhood’s Secretary-General, who lives outside Egypt, would be attending the conference to speak during the opening session. However, I doubted it, for no reason other than my experience with the Egyptian media, some of which now specialise in incitement and slander.
I haven’t forgotten what I heard said one day by a presenter on one of “those” channels; he accused me of treason because I attended a reception hosted by the Turkish Embassy in Cairo to celebrate Turkey’s Republic Day. That’s why I doubted the news about the Islamic movement’s secretary-general and the conference; if spending half an hour in the garden of the Turkish Embassy in the presence of 1,500 invited guests is considered “treason”, then participation in a two-day conference to discuss the position of political Islam (considered the greatest evil in Egypt these days) will give the media thugs a chance to declare it high treason, especially as a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood was taking part. This doubles the crime and is considered sufficient to prove treason.
Although I have been participating in conferences on political Islam for forty years, this is the first time I have had such concerns, which echoes the current atmosphere in Egypt. I have many responses to my doubts and concerns, one of which is that the conference was academic and not political in nature, and open to the public. This encouraged me to travel to Amman, reassured by the golden rule that I have followed my whole life, summarised in the proverb, “Walk straight and your enemies will be confused”. I don’t mind if you consider what I have just mentioned to be a confession on my part or a plea of collaboration. Whatever it is, it is out in the open.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.