In an article titled “No need to be afraid of us”, published in the British newspaper The Guardian, he revealed the Muslim Brotherhood’s official willingness to engage the West, with all its research establishments, intellectuals and those interested in the affairs of the Islamic movement following Brotherhood candidates’ major victory in Egyptian parliamentary elections, back in 2005.
At the time, many Western media outlets wrote of concerns about the ‘disturbing’ ascension of what they called the ‘political Islam’ current in the Middle East. This also prompted him to set up the website called “ikhwanweb” to help establish dialogue with the West, to dispel concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood.
Moreover, he is the leader of the most comprehensive Egypt-renaissance project, and head of the development committee of the Muslim Brotherhood, a prominent Egyptian businessman, an inspired man of unique character and boundless energy.
He is Mohamed Khairat Saad Abdul-Latif Al-Shater. Born on May 4, 1950 in the village of Kafr El-Canal, in Egypt’s Dakahlia Governorate, he received traditional education until he obtained a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Alexandria. He began general student and political activity at the end of his secondary education in 1966, and engaged in Islamic activity in 1967. He helped establish Islamic work and action at the University of Alexandria in the early seventies.
Shater was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood since 1974. After graduation, he worked as a lecturer and then as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Engineering, Mansoura University, until 1981 when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat issued a decree to dismiss him from the university, along with others, in a series of such decrees which became known as the September 1981 Decrees.
Further, Shater obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cairo’s Ain Shams University, Department of Sociology. He also received an Institute of Islamic Studies Diploma, and a Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organizations Diploma from the Faculty of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University. He also obtained a Business Administration Diploma, again from Ain Shams University, and gained a Diploma in International Marketing from Cairo’s University of Helwan.
Shater learnt all about trade, investment and economic activities from his father and grandparents. Indeed, trade was in Shater’s blood since his childhood. His father was involved in trade for more than fifty years; and also owned a number of agricultural land plots. Shater’s father was also one of the largest traders renowned in the province of Dakahlia; so were his grandfathers. Since he was a very young kid, Shater would help his father at his businesses, at the same time he went about his studies.
Khairat Al-Shater graduated from the Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University, and was appointed lecturer at the same Faculty. At that time, from 1974 to 1981, he started several economic business projects in general trade, as well as engineering consulting and contracting.
Then, the period from 1981 to 1987 saw Shater travel abroad. He stayed in Europe and the Arab region. At the beginning, the purpose of his travels was higher studies. However, passion for business caught up with him once again and he engaged in many commercial business activities in the Gulf region and in Europe.
He returned to Egypt in 1986 to establish, with Hassan Malik, the leading computer systems company Salsabeel, which was then one of the largest computer firms in Egypt, a pioneer in introducing computers to the Arab region, and making and developing software in Arabic. Salsabeel became the nucleus of a group of businesses and trade activities with branches all over Egypt, including organization and management of major exhibitions of durable goods and granting ownership of small projects to professional craftsmen who paid back in affordable installments, while Shater’s enterprises provided them with technical support and marketing services.
Shater also established a chain of shops in all manner of trade activities, and a company to export services (maintenance contracts – Consulting – training) and work in the fields of agriculture and livestock.
During that time, Shater was selected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic International Bank as well as the Board of Directors of Al Mohandes Bank, and also the Boards of many partnerships and joint stock companies in Egypt and the Arab region.
Shater also travelled on a number of commercial trips in European and Arab countries (Southeast Asia) and took numerous economic and management courses in Egypt and abroad.
Then Khairat Al-Shater imported all the necessary equipment for a factory to manufacture personal computers by Egyptian hands in Cairo. However, just as the equipment arrived at the port of Alexandria, security forces arrested Shater – in what is known as the "Salsabeel" case – closed the computer business (Salsabeel) and confiscated all the equipment in the company itself as well as the new equipment in Alexandria. After 11 months in prison, Shater was released and acquitted of all charges. At the time, the Minister of Interior announced in a statement published in Egypt’s official government-controlled newspaper that Shater was “irrelevant”. The company remained closed until today, and no one knows the fate of all its assets.
In 1995, Shater was arrested, again, and sentenced to five years in prison. However, he continued to run many of his business activities from inside prison. Of course, he resumed full management of those businesses after his release. He also developed his businesses, bringing more variety, establishing an enterprise to export Egyptian-made medicines to the Arab region – where various medicines were made completely by Egyptian hands.
Further, Shater worked in project management, and endeavored to attract foreign investors, and to export Egyptian products abroad – such as textiles. He established several companies like the pharmaceuticals company "Hayah", the electrical appliances company "Anwar", also "Malik", "Rawag" and others.
While establishing and running all his businesses, Shater was never involved in paying any bribes. He always fully paid what he owed in taxes and insurance etc. He was never acquainted with the twisted ways that a lot of businessmen resort to all the time.
Like any successful businessman, Shater was keen to make a profit from his businesses and enterprises. But out of genuine patriotism as a Muslim, serving his country remained his overriding goal. It is no surprise, therefore, that he focused – in his work and business activities – on the development dimension which aimed for the development of society. He never went for rentier economy projects, which aimed for profit only. Hence, he never got involved in trading in carcinogens, contaminated blood bags or fake cement, nor did he ever smuggle moneys and riches abroad. Shater’s work has always been for the best interests of his homeland, such as:
1 – Introducing computers to the Arab Region
2 – Developing computer software in Arabic
3 – Focusing on agriculture and livestock projects
4 – Business services, such as durable goods exhibitions, with easy installment plans, to help young people marry
5 – Favoring export projects to encourage production by Egyptian hands (such as drug manufacturing and computer software development). Whenever Shater worked in an import business, he always insisted it was only a temporary phase, in preparation for of a manufacturing phase to follow. This is because he always saw the need to provide jobs for the people of his homeland.
6 – Rejecting lavish luxuries and exaggerated comforts of life, he always reinvested his money in the same or new projects.
Points of Intrigue:
1 – In 1992, after Khairat Al-Shater imported all the necessary equipment for a factory to manufacture personal computers by Egyptian hands in Cairo, and just as the equipment arrived at the port of Alexandria, security forces arrested Shater, closed the computer business (Salsabeel) and confiscated all assets and imported equipment until the present day.
In that same year, Shater purchased a plot of land in an area called “6th of October” near Cairo, and prepared it to build on it a Turkish-style furniture factory made by Egyptian hands. Yet again, security forces shamefully arrested jailed him once more.
The intriguing question is: On whose account is investment in Egypt being fought and smothered? Why does Egypt have to bear these losses from missed opportunities for employment and the loss of good opportunities for investment that could yield great profits for the country?
2 – After the arrest of Khairat Al-Shater and Hassan Malik and the closure of their companies, which had been managing a number of official dealership agencies, some businessmen notorious for their close relationship with the now defunct National Party tried to take over those dealerships. That crackdown, some suggest, was meant to serve those businessmen close to the then ruling National Party.
3 – It would have been only natural for Al-Shater, and his partners, to have billions of (Egyptian) pounds, judging by the size of their operations and their long business history. However, as a result of successive security crackdowns, the amount of money they handle in their businesses does not exceed 10 or 15 million pounds (US $5-7 million), with a capital of only 4 million pounds. At the same time, we find completely unknown businessmen, with no name or presence in the market, suddenly materialize and play with billions of pounds, without anyone asking them where they got those funds. Was Shater’s problem that he did not join the network of special interests?
4 – On whose account is the cover up for corrupt businessmen who drowned Egyptian ferry passengers, imported and marketed carcinogens, contaminated blood bags and rotten meat? Why are they allowed to escape punishment, or never actually brought to trial? Why, at the same time, does the regime punish and persecute patriotic businessmen who hold Egypt’s best interests at heart, provide employment opportunities for their fellow citizens, and do not smuggle their money abroad? Why should they languish behind bars for years, even after competent courts acquit them?
Architect of Egypt’s renaissance
Khairat Al-Shater, Deputy Chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, believes that the first task for which the Brotherhood was founded is to rebuild the homeland on the basis of Islamic reference. So, he has launched the "Contribute to building Egypt’s renaissance" project, after studying the possibilities of benefiting from the experiences of certain countries, carefully selected through clear and specific criteria. Those included countries like Malaysia, Turkey and Singapore, bearing in mind that each country has its own specificity and its experience cannot be fully emulated or ‘cloned’.
Regarding the proposed Renaissance for Egypt initiative, Al-Shater said that it is a major project that needs to be explained in detail: “But very briefly, our strategic objective is to rebuild Egypt properly. The proper way has a logical and natural precondition. It requires a strong and stable political system to build on. That system must include some broad and significant involvement of the Egyptian people in the making of decisions about their lives and their future, with positive popular participation in elections.
“That essential political system must also ensure the integrity of the electoral process to the greatest extent possible, in addition to the presence of powerful political institutions like the Houses of Parliament. The Shura Council, in turn, must perform its legislative and oversight roles if a parliamentary or semi-parliamentary system is chosen for the government itself”, Shater added.
Further, the architect of the national rejuvenation project stressed that the political system must have a Presidential Institution with clear and specific powers, with popular and parliamentary oversight, with peaceful transfer and circulation of power, unlike former systems where the president’s term ends only when he dies. It should also have clear separation of powers, full independence of the judiciary, and sovereignty of the law, so Egyptian citizens are not threatened with excessive actions, as the state security apparatus or the various state agencies used to do in the past.
Shater explained that the required political system must also include that every Egyptian citizen gets an equal and fair share in state resources. A large part of these resources was allocated to the family of Mubarak, when he was President, with a very limited number of business leaders not exceeding 300 families, benefiting from the former regime and contributing to the corruption of political life.
Shater said that the second point, which represents a large part of the renaissance project, is achieving economic, social and cultural development, in all areas. It is necessary to build a strong economic system in Egypt. He pointed that Egypt’s system was largely dependent on a rentier economy which relied on oil, money transfers from Egyptians abroad, the Suez Canal, foreign aid and tourism. He added, “But in addition to these aspects, which are elements of rentier economy, we want to complete the system with real agricultural and industrial production”.
With regard to the education project, Shater highlighted the importance of reviewing the entire education system, then developing education strategies, mechanisms and management of educational institutions so that the educational system as a whole contributes to making good Egyptian citizens who can contribute effectively in the renaissance of his country, with an integrated strategic vision.
Furthermore, Shater pointed that, “We do not limit ourselves, in our analysis, to three or four countries. We have taken a great interest – at the level of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice party, and at the level of national honorable Egyptian elements in other parties with other ideological leanings that cooperate with us – in this vital and major project, to examine the largest possible number of experiences that have been successful around the world.
Repeated Plundering Raids
The former regime waged a fierce and relentless war against Shater for the benefit of some of its chums and cronies. When they found that Shater established a computer systems company and would be the first to introduce PCs to Egypt, the loathsome State Security rushed to fabricate charges against him in what is known as the "Salsabeel" case in 1992. They closed the company and confiscated all assets – until now. But that was certainly not enough for Mubarak’s government. It arrested and jailed him, together with a group of his honorable brothers, for a year. But it did not stop even there. The government continued watching his business activities lest he should do better than the businessmen affiliated with the now defunct National Party.
At the beginning of 1995, hordes of security forces moved, by instructions from the ruling regime, to capture the men of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Shater, with neither charge no evidence, civilians subjected to court martials. This time, Shater and the honorable Brothers were sentenced, by a military court, to five years in prison – for each of them, of course. He spent that full sentence away from his home and his wife. The system did not treat members of the Brotherhood like other prisoners, e.g. compassion rules for "good behavior" or "three-quarters of the term". A year in prison, for a Brother, meant a whole year.
No sooner had Al-Shater come out to meet with his sons and his wife, in 2001, than hordes of security forces invaded his home yet again and arrested him. They threw him in prison unjustly, where he spent another whole year.
Then, on the 14th of December 2006, the Shater family was shocked and dismayed yet again by another State Security raid in which Shater was arrested, together with his son-in-law, Ayman Abdul-Ghani. They were subjected to military trial, where Shater was sentenced to seven years in prison and his son-in-law to three years, despite the fact that the ordinary civilian courts and military justice acquitted them of the charges made against them. Evidently, the Egyptian regime refused the existence of such people on earth.
More drama followed as Shater’s family was shocked once more to face brutal State Security forces confiscating Shater companies and moneys, freezing whatever they had left of assets without any reason or justification. Through all of this, the patient wife persevered, heading the family wisely, seeking the good Reward from God Almighty for all she and her husband suffered.
* Imprisoned Falsely Four Times:
First: In 1968, during the reign of Nasser, for his involvement in student demonstrations in November 1968. He was imprisoned for four months, and expelled from university and enlisted in the armed forces during the war of attrition before his scheduled national military service.
Second: In 1992, for one year, in the so-called "Salsabeel" case.
Third: In 1995, he was sentenced to five years – before a military court, in cases relating to his Muslim Brotherhood activities.
Fourth: In 2001, for almost a whole year.
There was an order for his arrest in 1981, too, but he was out of Egypt at that time.
Fruitful Program Behind Bars
Even in prison, Khairat Al-Shater had regular tasks relating to the affairs of his businesses, his social life, and even the Muslim Brotherhood. Behind the walls of his cell, he held meetings, every week. Also, his staff used to visit him in prison on a regular basis to take his strategic advice and guidance regarding investments in various areas, such as technology, textile industry, bus manufacturing, furniture making, and so on.
Before complementing his eight daughters’ marriage, he met the bridegrooms while in prison. Some grooms were with him in prison. Some of his daughters did get married, while five of them insisted to marry only in his presence, and awaited his release. Today, 62-year-old Shater has a powerful, wide-ranging influence.
Shater’s family is a model of the highest and most sublime values. Behind Khairat Al-Shater, all his family suffered persecution, since the Gamal Abdel Nasser era, especially in 1968. This persecution increased with President Sadat’s decision to dismiss him from his teaching post at university for being a man who represents Islam in its comprehensive sense.
This persecution of Shater and his family continued even after his marriage to a very virtuous and honorable woman.
Azza Ahmed Mohamed Tawfik, the wife of Khairat Al-Shater, was born in Fayoum Governorate, south-west of Cairo. Her father worked in engineering and contracting. The eldest of her siblings, she was born on the 22nd of May 1952. Her father raised all his children in a good Islamic environment, upbringing and education.
Throughout the stages of her education, Azza Tawfik was a diligent student. She graduated at the Faculty of Engineering, Alexandria University – the same college where Shater himself graduated as an engineer.
Azza Tawfik did not stop at the engineering BSc she obtained from university, but pushed on, following her passion and her love of science, studying Islamic Sharia. She obtained a "Making Advocates" Institute Diploma after a four-year course, where she graduated at the very top of her class.
His Presidential Candidacy
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party put forward Khairat Al-Shater to run for president of Egypt after they observed alarming changes and real challenges facing the Egyptian revolution.