- How is the Muslim Brotherhood doing now? What are its priorities?
The Brotherhood is a Muslim organisation with a school of thought that is no longer hidden. We do not monopolise religious or national work with our ideas and the group's history over the past 90 years shows that some in authority who disagree with our ideas resort to force of a level far removed from any constitution or law in order to fight our ideas. This was the case with the military coups that have occurred in Egypt and they have pushed us to ignite a civil war in order to obtain the legitimacy of recognition and to justify their violations that are illegal and inconsistent with religious and humanitarian charters. Despite this, our priorities remain focused on maintaining our ideology and advocating for it by all peaceful means. We will continue to abide by our ideas, despite this costing our blood and freedom, in order to help the people obtain the liberation of their will, their political and economic independence, social unity and their dignity.
- Over the past five years, there has been talk of several reconciliation initiatives. Is any initiative currently underway?
The group has been experiencing a difficult situation in Egypt, which is undeniable to anyone. In addition, Egypt and its people are being hurled into an unknown future at the hands of the military dictatorship, a fact that also cannot be denied by anyone, even those fooled by the military leadership's propaganda, which gained real control of the government and authority after the 25th January Revolution in 2011. This is indicated by the presence of the deep state, despite the election of the first legitimate, democratically-elected president in the history of Egypt.
We in the Muslim Brotherhood are able to rise above such crises and above our wounds and called for reconciliation amongst all sections of Egyptian society in order to achieve the goals of the revolution, without giving any legitimacy to the military coup and its policies which are pushing Egypt and its people into a frightening unknown. It is very natural, from a human, legal and historical perspective, that we do not forget the bloodshed, the victims and the torture of the prisoners. Nor can we forget that the coup leaders betrayed their country and its potential. This has made the matter one for which all of the nation's factions are responsible, not only the Muslim Brotherhood. The group also stresses that it will participate in all collective efforts to unite opponents of the coup.
- The Muslim Brotherhood has expressed its willingness in the past to engage in dialogue. What are the group's conditions for this?
Our position is very clear. Our condition is not to recognise or legitimise the military coup and its actions, and to restore the seized and wasted rights of the Egyptian people.
- After the repression of the Brotherhood at the hands of [former President Gamal] Abdel Nasser, you waited until Sadat came to power to re-emerge. Will the same happen now? Will you wait for Al-Sisi's successor?
The correct reading of history, away from the superficial studies that are published and do not bear any relation to the facts, confirms that the group did not disappear or close its files. It is no exaggeration when we say that the group is the one that defeated Gamal Abdel Nasser and his inhuman practices, philosophies and ideologies on which he tried to build his country with empty slogans planted across the entire Arab region. In fact, his actions contradicted his slogans, as demonstrated by the following:
- The Nasser regime believed that its well-known oppressive practices in 1954 had eliminated the Brotherhood's organisational structure, but that did not happen. If we recall the events of 1965, we would remember that it was the time that the first military coup regime discovered that the organisation was still operating within the country and fully functional. When the president visited a then close ally, the Soviet Union, on 18 August, 1965, he waged a new war on the group and tasked the Egyptian army and military courts with carrying it out.
- We can say without exaggeration that Egypt and the Arab region have been subject to sweeping ideological storms that the governments at the time promoted. This includes Marxism, Ba'athism, Nasserism and nationalism. All of these ideologies excluded religion and religious values in an effort to replace the group's ideas. However, the group's ideology overcame these storms.
- This ideological battle occurred while the group, its leading figures and intellectuals were subject to extreme oppression, murder and displacement. It confirmed the group's loyalty to its ideology and its keenness to maintain the identity of the country. It also confirmed that the foreign ideas that were supported by international and local governments were, in fact, bad.
- The political, economic, social and even military decline during Abdel Nasser's time revealed the fallacy of his false claims regarding the Muslim Brotherhood. He had claimed that the movement worked for foreign forces at the same time, which is something neither he nor anyone else has been able to prove throughout the group's history. He made these claims after he and his successor tried to control the group's decisions and affect its independence. They were unable to do so and, God willing, no one will be able to. After the false nature of these claims was revealed and the facts became apparent, the people were shocked by the lies and this pushed them back towards the movement after waking up to the events of the 1967 Nakba [the Six Day War against Israel].
Now, following the 2013 military coup in Egypt, which does not hide behind any ideology, the country and region are spiralling into an unknown future as a result of the coup leader's actions regionally and against the Muslim Brotherhood. The coup government is trying, with the money of its supporters, to place the group and its ideology on the terrorist list. It failed to do so, first by the grace of God, and then by the group's steadfastness and commitment to what it believes to be right. It has become clear that history is repeating itself (unfortunately), and we are afraid that the Egyptian government's new policies will lead to a repeat of the 1967 catastrophe in a worse manner, as it controls all of Egypt's capabilities. Despite all of this, the group is still moving forward with its ideology and principles, with the help of God, and with feet planted firmly on the ground. Just as it condemned the practices of the Nasserite government, and was innocent of the things of which it was accused while not being fooled by the regime nor giving in to its violence, the movement will remain so, God willing, under the 2013 coup.
- Has there been a review within the group in recent years? Has there been any self-criticism regarding the mistakes made by the group since 2011? Was it a mistake to nominate a presidential candidate?
Yes, there have been some reviews in light of the events that took place with those who can testify to what they witnessed. These reviews will continue until everyone who participated in the decision-making process gives their testimonies and says all they have to say. This is in order to ensure that we have a true, accurate, objective and honest review that is not based on emotions, newspaper articles or interviews. Despite the media pressures to go public with our reviews, we have reached the point that each side had hoped the review would be consistent with their own conclusions, even going as far as blackmail. Of course it is our responsibility for the sake of Egypt's history and the history of the group and of all of the political forces to release such a review once all of our true visions are complete, even if they have some mistakes or if some of our actions are contested within the movement.
As for whether or not nominating a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood for president of Egypt was a mistake, before I answer this question, it implies that the position of president is permissible for some but not for others, even if the position was attained via free, honest and transparent democratic elections. That was the case with the legitimate President, Dr Mohamed Morsi, and the answer requires me to recall the conspiracies of the Military Council after 2011. I must also recall its attempts to impose Ahmed Shafik, as well the astonishing media campaign to distort and defame the 25th January Revolution, along with threats from the executive authority at the time to dissolve the first elected parliament and its imposition of constitutional principles to give the army and military council a special status that is above Constitution, along with many other actions.
However, there was also a new political belief on the scene, resulting from the revolution, which confirmed that the people had the right to decide their fate and choose their president. After saying this, I feel I have answered this question for which some are still looking for a different answer and for which the group, along with the entire Egyptian nation, is still paying the price. Despite this, I am certain that the fact that an Egyptian man who emerged from amidst the masses; who is intelligent, honest, frugal with public funds; and pure, was a national requirement in order to unveil the deep state that is ruling Egypt. God willed that this Egyptian, chosen by the people, should be university Professor Mohamed Morsi and he was chosen as the Brotherhood's candidate. I am also certain that the honourable people in Egypt who opposed the military coup the moment it occurred or afterwards can also answer this question.
- After the repression against the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters, the group was affected and internal divisions occurred. What are the fundamental differences that led to the division of the group?
The Muslim Brotherhood is a human group that is influenced by events like any other movement, even if, by means of its approach, ideas and the values it has been based on throughout its history, it will remain stronger than many others in the face of challenges and adversity. We do not deny that a limited dispute occurred regarding confronting the military coup once the first shock wore off; thankfully, though, that did not continue. We do not consider it to be a division, neither in terms of thought or understanding, nor in terms of structure, and we reiterate that despite the false image portrayed by the media regarding a division or otherwise, the group was and will remain, by God's will, a united group with a single approach. It will not be a coalition group bringing together various wings, including the right and left, like other groups. Nor does it consist of supporters of one leadership and the supporters of another, meaning there is conflict within it. We will continue to strive for united ranks and work towards one goal; to please God Almighty, which is what we want most.
- On many occasions, the Brotherhood presented itself as a moderate group that deters the youth from extremism. In reality, since the coup, many members of the Brotherhood have fallen into the grips of extremism. Why has this happened?
This has been the ideology of the group since its establishment and a basic constant of its work, despite what is has been subjected to under military law since what happened in 1948, when the military provisions were announced. This was followed by the presence of military leaders in order to stop anyone from finding a charge of violating the law under an independent civilian judiciary. Although the 2013 coup used specific civilian judges who asked that they themselves could prosecute members of the group alongside the military courts, in a blatant violation of the law, the group remained committed to its approach in order for the country not to slip into a civil war leading to its fragmentation and in order not to give the coup leaders the chance to find legitimacy for their existence. I would not be going too far if I said that the Brotherhood's ideology and school of thought was the reason for stopping Egypt, along with other parties, from getting swept into this frightening abyss.
As for some to lose their patience in their confrontation with the coup leaders' criminal acts or the violations of some governments as a human reaction, this is expected. The group continues to condemn this and is working on putting an end to it and preventing it as much as possible. However, the movement does not bear any legal or legitimate responsibility, and this is a global rule that applies not only to Egypt or the Muslim Brotherhood.
- The Egyptian authorities have accused you of terrorism. How do you respond to this?
I am not the only one who the military coup leaders, who committed inter alia the Rabaa Al-Adawiyya Square Massacre, have accused of this, even though they have no material evidence. What is this terrorism of which they accuse someone like the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood? Famously, he chanted, "Our peacefulness is stronger than bullets" during the Rabaa sit-in. It is suffice to respond to such slander with what has been announced by international human rights organisations such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, which reported testimonies from international leaders, political leaders and activists, all of which confirm that the military coup is carrying out extrajudicial killings and that it relies on military courts, as well as civilian courts, that have even issued sentences against those who passed away before the military coup.
Despite this, on my part I am willing to stand before any court in the world if the coup-led government will reveal the acts of which I have personally committed which actually violate proper laws and which the regime believes are acts of terrorism. Verbal or written opinions expressed in opposition to the government, led by the coup leader who granted his officers and soldiers immunity in advance for killing any protestor or dissident, can never be regarded as terrorism.
- How do you explain to a reader who knows nothing about Islam what political Islam is, what Salafism is, and what Jihadi Salafism is? Where does the Muslim Brotherhood stand on these approaches?
The term political Islam is used to describe parties and groups that participate in political work, agree to participate in authority and decision-making, and adopt, within their agenda and programme, the rulings of Islam and its laws. Such groups consider the latter to be the main reference point from which they derive laws and legislation.
Salafism is a term describing all those who call for abiding by the understanding of the Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) companions' of the Book of Allah and adhering to the knowledge and actions of the companions regarding their worship. Some of them do not allow advising the leader publically if he errs, but rather believe it must be done privately.
Jihadi Salafism is a term coined in the late 1980s. Its ideology and commitment are no different to the ideology of traditional Salafism, apart from the belief that jihad is a duty which must be carried out by Muslims against an occupying enemy and a ruling government that does not enforce Islamic sharia.
The position of the Muslim Brotherhood towards these two approaches is clear. We are committed to the confirmed beliefs and the teachings of the Prophet's (peace be upon him) companions, without closing the doors of jurisprudence to benefit the people, in a manner that does not violate an Islamic ruling agreed upon by the nation. This may serve its interests, including political and parliamentary work and advising the leader, in accordance with the words of the Prophet, who believed in the need to give advice for the sake of Allah, his Messenger and the Muslim public.
However, we disagree with those who believe that governments must be confronted with violence in the name of jihad. This is a disagreement that has been established according to the group's understanding of what it sees as the true teachings of God and according to what old and new Muslim scholars agreed upon after jurisprudence. The group announced this in its document titled "Our Testimony" issued in 1994.
Conducted by EFE, the Spanish News Agency