The deputy general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood has revealed that the Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi attempted to initiate a dialogue with the movement in 2016, the Arabic Post has reported. "He tried to communicate with us between 2015 and 2016," explained Ibrahim Mounir, "when he was asking us to recognise his legitimacy."
Mounir was speaking in exile in the run up to the 10th anniversary of the January 2011 Revolution in Egypt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. He set out five conditions for dialogue to end the political crisis in the country: the release of political detainees; the restoring of all rights (which he did not specify); the army's return to its natural role in protecting the state and its borders, and not interfering in politics; holding all who have committed crimes against the people to account; and enabling the Egyptians to choose who governs them through democratic elections. The movement, he added, is ready to form an alliance with those who agree on the principle of not recognising the existing regime, preserving the peaceful nature of the revolution, respecting political and ideological diversity, and respecting the popular will.
The Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and many of its senior officials and members are languishing in prison. The Sisi regime led the coup that overthrew the late President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Sisi, said Mounir, believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to Egypt and wants to keep it excluded from politics.
"The Egyptian regime is the one which wanted this to be a zero-sum game, beginning with the coup and subsequent massacres, passing through arrests, unfair trials, executions and the seizure of property," he said. "Sisi says that he will not be able to reconcile with those who want to destroy the country, by which he means the Brotherhood."
Mounir denied that the group had made a deal with the regimes of Mubarak and former President Anwar Sadat. The latter, of course, was involved in the trial that ruled on 4 December 1954 to execute six Muslim Brotherhood leaders.
"Sadat came to power at a time when Egypt was on the verge of collapse after the 1967 Six Day War and Israel's occupation of Egyptian land, and the movement overlooked the issues from the past in order to prioritise the best interests of Egypt. These were not deals, but political adaptations based on the tools available for community and political participation and it provided the opportunity to act despite the violations committed against the Muslim Brotherhood. The situation did not change after the assassination of Sadat and Mubarak's inauguration."
Referring to Sisi's call to confront the group during his visit to France last week, Mounir said that the Egyptian president has been exposed by his failure to eradicate the Brotherhood, his own declining popularity, and his inability to govern in the interests of the people. "Hence, he is trying to get support from regimes that agree with him about fighting political Islam, despite knowing that they are only ever able to buy themselves some time, nothing more."
The movement's leader asserted that the designation of the Brotherhood as a "terrorist organisation" by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE was clearly politically motivated and not based on ideology. He rejected the idea that the movement is involved in terrorism. "The group rejects the use of violence; any aggression always comes from the regimes. All three countries are well aware of the truth about the Brotherhood. However, the Arab nations still overwhelmingly want change, and they still pin their hopes mostly on political Islam."
Mounir said that he hopes that the incoming Joe Biden administration in the US will stop giving support to regional dictatorships. "Nevertheless, we rely first of all on Allah for change to happen."
Biden was US Vice President during the 2013 crisis in Egypt, but never expressed any direct support for the opposition or the Brotherhood, he pointed out. Ten years after the start of the Arab Spring, said Mounir, is enough for Biden to have assessed the situation seriously and have developed his vision on how to deal with the region.
In response to accusations of attempting to keep the Brotherhood in existence rather than protect individuals and the basic concept behind it, Mounir replied: "The organisation has carried the concept and protected it. If we assume that we have now dissolved the organisation, would this protect Brotherhood members from the tyrants? No, it would encourage them to oppress them even more."
He explained that the Brotherhood cannot cure corruption by being corrupt, and its members know this. "This is why they put up with all kinds of harm with patience and steadfastness. They are motivated by a sense of responsibility and awareness of what the use of force and violence can lead to."
The Muslim Brotherhood members chose Mounir as deputy general guide after the Egyptian authorities arrested his predecessor, Mahmoud Ezzat, in August. He has formed an administrative committee to manage the movement's activities, and has received a remarkable degree of support.