Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the leader of the Strong Egypt Party, recently said that the alleged international organisational structure behind the Muslim Brotherhood was nothing more than an “illusion created by the Egyptian media”. Aboul Fotouh accused the Egyptian media of trying to foster the idea that the Muslim Brotherhood is a global movement and that it should be referred to as the “International Organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood”. He emphasised that his rejection of the notion that an international Brotherhood exists “does not deny the fact that there are branches of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan and other countries; however, it is comparable to the socialist movement, which can be found in many countries around the world”.
In his interview with the Egyptian Today on Sunday, Aboul Fotouh emphasised that “it does not make any sense to demonise the Muslim Brotherhood after more than 80 years of giving back to the community. The Muslim Brotherhood should not be viewed as a devil just because some may disagree with them politically”. Although the Egyptian politician expressed his sense of pride for participating in the events that took place on June 30, 2013, he also emphasised that what happened after had nothing to do with the revolution.
“On June 30 we went out on the streets to protest against a government we felt was poor at governance, a government that was weak and detached from reality. So we decided to place pressure on the government by demanding early elections,” said Aboul Fotouh.
Avoiding the Muslim Brotherhood
The head of the Strong Egypt Party went on to explain the accusations that the Muslim Brotherhood had plans to destroy Egypt and that they were creating chaos as an “excuse to avoid the Muslim Brotherhood”.
“In general, I view the media’s performance as a large part of the reason behind the sense of chaos and hatred surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has existed for over 80 years and it cannot be that after all this time and all this giving that it can be converted into a tyrannical devil as a result of some political disagreements. Of course, the group, as an organisation, has made mistakes and has its shortcomings”, Aboul Fotouh said.
“It is wrong for us to associate every unfortunate event and calamity in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. This argument is not valid and it is contrary to popular Egyptian belief. We must place the blame on every organisation, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood, leftist or communist, in the event that they make a mistake. We must hold every faction accountable for his or her actions. I imagine that any other outcome would be a threat to the homeland itself and it is something that would promote societal polarisation even further and justifies the actions of the security sector whose job is not to blame certain groups but to search for the truth,” he added.
With regards to his meeting with Dr Mohammed Ali Beshr two months ago, Aboul Fotouh said: “I meet with all factions and movements and our conversations are primarily political. We meet on the basis that we need to come closer together and find a solution for the current crisis. There are certain conversations I do not embark on before asking the factions involved if it is all right to do so. I feel as though the media speculations surrounding the Muslim Brotherhood only complicate matters further because Egypt is much larger than the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Harsh criticisms of Sisi’s regime
Aboul Fotouh went on to wage sharp criticisms of the Sisi regime by saying: “I feel that the situation in Egypt has equated or replaced politics with nationalism. There is this sentiment that if you are with the government then you are a nationalist and if you are against it then you are a traitor. These types of ultimatums and bullying techniques cannot be used to govern nations. Nations must be led by serious, honest and straightforward personalities and religion should not be viewed as a way to achieve individual goals and the same goes for nationalism as well.”
“Nationalism should never be used as a tool to spark a political conflict or to debunk well-respected national figures. One cannot say that the Egyptian people are not ready for democracy because, in truth, they are and they are worth more than the chaos in their country. If they were not ready for democracy they would not have sparked a revolution on January 25 and they would not have taken to the streets in protest on June 30. Therefore, the current government’s efforts to cause hatred among the Egyptian people, in order to control them, should be forbidden. We refuse to accept this current reality.”
In response to some claims that in the government must rule with an iron fist in order to achieve security, Aboul Fotouh said: “One cannot rule Egypt with iron and fire because these tactics were used during barbaric times, times of wild animals and bare landscapes. One cannot rule a people with dignity in such a way because the Egyptian people are not a group of animals. They have paid a heavy price for their freedom and the authorities must preserve their dignity and their rights.”
“An Egyptian’s dignity is far more important to him than his stomach. This does not mean that economics and a bite of bread have no meaning; however, an Egyptian’s dignity remains far more important. The current regime needs to consider the fact that it is the only regime to hold women in detention and torture them, which sometimes leads to their death. This has never happened in the history of Egypt and I think this will always be the scarlet letter that must be worn by the current regime.”
Political security apparatus
In his interview with the Egyptian Today, Aboul Fotouh also expressed his opinion of the protests: “The Egyptian people have been protesting on a regular basis over the course of the last year, it is their right to protest and to assemble as long as these demonstrations remain peaceful. The current regime’s job is to differentiate between those who oppose the system and those who oppose the idea that the nation belongs to everyone.”
“The security apparatus is being used to deter the Egyptian people from a democratic path and this is dangerous. It is not suitable for a country like Egypt to be governed by a first class security apparatus, especially when governance should not be the main responsibility of the security sector.”
Rejecting what happened after June 30
In response to the statement that Egyptians protested on June 30 in order to bring down Morsi’s government, Aboul Fotouh said: “Yes, they did… however, the people wanted to bring down the Morsi government via early elections with multiple candidates chosen by the people.”
“To this day, we are proud of the June 30 protests; however, what happened after June 30 has nothing to do with the democratic or revolutionary spirit of the protests. We just wanted to place pressure [on Morsi] to agree to early elections and we were dealing with the situation out of respect for the same popular will that brought [Morsi] to power,” he clarified.
“The correct thing to do now is to remain in this political struggle until the end; however, if we do decide to protest against the Sisi regime because of economic instability and increasing prices, then be must respectfully accept popular will and leave office with his forces and we will be the ones to remain in Egypt as it is now,” he continued.
Aboul Fotouh felt it was necessary to say the following: “We rebelled against Morsi due to his refusal to separate himself from the Muslim Brotherhood. However, has Al-Sisi distanced himself from the military institution? Both religion and the military should be distanced from the government because they both have catastrophic implications for the nation.”
“The chaos in Egypt will only settle down if we have national reconciliation. The conflict is not limited to the military and the Muslim Brotherhood alone. On the contrary, we need a general reconciliation.”
Asked whether or not he considered the current government a military regime, he responded: “I do not concern myself with characterising the current regime as a military regime or anything else. What I am concerned with is its performance and the current government is oppressive. In fact, the current regime’s practices are far more oppressive than the Mubarak regime, which the Egyptian people rebelled against.”
“The government must stop its oppressive tactics. Currently, the act of protesting is considered unconstitutional, temporary detention has become permanent and the Egyptian citizen has no right to his public inheritance due to a law endorsed by Adli Mansour, the former president of Egypt. So, if the Egyptian government decides to sell public property then I have no right to protest this decision because my opinion does not matter. What right do I have to protest the decisions made by those who rule Egypt? Do democratic governments respect the right of their citizens or not?”
Strong Egypt Party, its national projects and the aggression on Gaza
In regards to his party’s performance, Aboul Fotouh said: “We have an ability within the framework of our party to provide solutions to the current problems. We are studying these potential solutions very carefully and we have sent proposals to the current government and the constituent assembly. We have drafted proposals regarding electoral law, solving the Renaissance Dam crisis and the electricity shortage crisis, all of which we are working on now.”
“Our main problem now is that we feel as though we are cornered about the media and this makes us feel as though the citizen is neither present nor important because we are not given the opportunity or the outlet to express ourselves.”
In regards to the “national projects” being carried out by the current government, Aboul Fotouh said: “No one is against implementing large-scale national projects for Egypt, for these projects are a new concept and their capacity for development is great indeed. However, we cannot ignore the fact that these types of projects require a great deal of research and they require a defined set of priorities as opposed to deceptive media.”
“It is not acceptable for the current government to tell the people that there is no need to undergo research and proceed to take on seven new national development projects relating to the Suez Canal and housing, among other things. The government cannot undergo projects of this scale and then act as if they do not know why prices have risen. One of the officials responsible for these projects must come out and tell us where the money is coming from and what affects it has on the national budget and state resources.”
He insisted on describing the new Suez Canal as “just an extension” by saying, “Indeed, it is an extension measuring approximately 34 kilometres long. The length of the Suez Canal in its entirety is 200 kilometres and while this extension is an important development, I must call things as I see them and in this case I believe that this project should have been researched further.”
Aboul Fotouh evaluated Egypt’s role in the latest Israeli attack on Gaza saying: “The current regime’s position in the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza was very bad and I am one of the Egyptians who understands that the Palestinian cause is also a matter of Egyptian national security, one cannot deny this.”
Source: Translated from Arabi21, 22 September, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.