Ghozlan: Muslim Brotherhood Would Accept Coptic or Woman As Head for its Party

Ghozlan: Muslim Brotherhood Would Accept Coptic or Woman As Head for its Party

IkhwanWeb conducted this interview with Mahmoud Ghozlan, member of the MB”s Executive Bureau, several weeks before his detention in the occasion of celebrating the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the MB.

Ikhwanweb: What does the MB means when it says the it opts for a state system based on Islamic reference? Is the MB”s opted state civil or religious? What is the reason for this Islamic reference? What is the reference”s status in the modern concepts?

The issue of Islamic reference is very important not only in state matters, but in all aspects of life. The reason is that Islam is a comprehensive system that covers every aspect of life. From an Islamic perspective, humans are vicegerent of Allah in earth, and should abide by His ordinances.

In state matters for example, Allah has ordained that we are to judge with justice, and created the humans free and equal to each other. Shura (consultation), it is a core part of the political system.

Shari`ah is divided into two sections: one is static that cannot be changed (i.e. there are certain forbidden activities that cannot be made lawful by any one or council or authority; such as adultery, murder, usurping one”s property and money, drinking alcohol, unjustly treating the others…etc.).

Islamic reference means that such values are integrated in the system. It also sets guidelines for others matters. For instance, relations between men and women must be within the frame of lawful marriage, so extramarital and homosexual relationships are outlawed.

We should maintain Allah”s ordinances in these issues. If anyone calls that we should forsake this, he is absolutely mistaken.

Ikhwanweb: If the MB comes to power, how will you deal with opposition?  Will you suppress or negotiate with them?

We already deal with people and political groups from all different background and political orientations; we try to reach religious common ground with Muslim by asserting Quran and Sunna as the reference, and we work on reaching consensus on issues of citizenship with Muslims and non Muslims alike. As for religious disagreements with non-Muslims we adopt the Quranic principle that says: “you have your own religion and we have oursâ€‌

Ikhwanweb: If the MB comes to power, would Egypt be a civil or a religious state?

This is an important question that needs some clarification. I think before discussing what state the MB opts for, we should define what is meant by a religious state. This term became ill-reputed as a result of the bitter sufferings experienced by the Catholic Christian western states under the hegemony and deviation of the Catholic Church to the extent that the Church would sell the indulgences, Paradise and Hellfire, and ally with the feudalists against the poor, and fight and burn the scientists…all these bad practices created an antagonistic impression against the church. This impression exceeded the church to all religions.

Therefore, the ideas of secularism (segregating the religions from the state and all other fields of life) came out. Unfortunately, some of those affected by this bitter experience apply this impression on Islam ignoring the difference between Islam and Christianity; Islam has no priesthood- like hierarchy, it is not against science; it respects the human mind and research as well. In Islam, nobody possesses the right of selling Paradise or the Hellfire, no clergymen but it has Islamic scholars (Islamic science is not acquired by inheritance and not restricted to certain class of society; any one -from any place or of any race- who seeks education and has the means of Ijtihad, he becomes an Islamic scholar).

Consequently, applying this impression on Islam as a religion similar to the church is really false accusation. They accuse the Islamists who call for the Shari `ah as a reference of seeking a religious sate. Islam is not like the Catholic Church in the medieval ages; rulers I Islam are not the shade of Allah on the earth, but they are the representatives of the nation, they are to be elected and reckoned by the nation; if they deviated from the right path, the nation should amend them…rulers are not over the law; they are ordinary people.

The Islamic state has two faces; one is relating to the government, people, and the way the rulers are elected; it is civil in this face. The other face relates to legislation; it is binding that the state abides by the ordinances of Shari `ah. Allah, the Almighty, made the Shari `ah very flexible: what is relating to policy has general principles and collective regulations, and the people have the right to deduce the rest of the law and codes guided by the general principles and guiding values.

In political life, for example, Islam decrees simple justice, Shura, equality, freedom, and the right of the people to elect their ruler, and let the people free to form the political system, whether having parties or not, individual elections or list- elections, the ruler”s ruling period to be one or more…etc. All these examples are to the people to decide. Out of this, the state is absolutely civil within the rulings of Shari`ah”s decisive evidences.

Ikhwanweb: What is the status of the Islamic reference in modern concepts?

Every modern state has its reference; so why they all condemn our Islamic reference?…the communists have their reference based on the principles of Marx, and the capitalists and socialists have their reference; we never denounce their reference for it is their right and freedom to select whatever references they desire, however, unfortunately they denounce our Islamic reference.

All modern and old states have their reference and philosophy, for whenever the majority agrees on certain principle, idea, or philosophy and seek to implement it, it is their reference…We agreed on Islam.

Ikhwanweb: Though it has Islamic roots, Justice and Development Party in Turkey has not clashed with secularism in Turkey and proclaimed that it would uphold Turkey’s secular principles. Some observers think highly of their experience as a manifestation of what Islamic movements in the West should do; the question is: why does MB not tread in their steps and apply their experiment in the Middle East ?

AKP experience is worthy of study not but not replication, due to contextual differences. AKP lives under a dictatorial constitution that was laid down since the time of Ataturk. The constitution sanctifies Ataturk and secularity as well, gives freedom to none, and entrusts the army with the authority to watch parties and individuals. Moreover, government and all foundations in Turkey work hard to apply such principle. So, this party has not chosen its method, rather it was forced to tread in such steps and to work under such circumstances.

On the other hand, comparing the party to other parties in Turkey makes it an excellent party. It applies the general principles of Islam including honesty, justice an equality among Turkish, and launches strong campaigns against corruption.

But it is shackled with secularism, and their circumstances are not like ours. We live in a nation where a vast majority of the people support implementing Islamic Shariah in every aspect of life. They are very skeptical when it comes to security forces involvement in politics, and refuse to give the authority to the army to supervise every step of the government or individuals. For these reasons all, their circumstances are not like ours.

Ikhwanweb: Before introducing your political platform, you proclaimed that you would not introduce it to parties” affairs committee, what is the advantage of drafting such platform?

The platform outlines our vision for reform and how to work for it. It does not matter to introduce it to parties” affairs committee or not. Indeed, we were attacked and criticized many times that we have no programs or agendas and that we merely say and proclaim inapplicable nonsense.

We introduce this platform to all people to express ourselves and clarify our viewpoints regarding reform and present a comprehensive program for reform to respond to claims that we only use religious sentiment with no clear political vision.

Ikhwanweb: What is the difference between the platform and the reform initiative proclaimed in 2004?

The initiative was concise; unlike the party platform which would be more wide and comprehensive to cover all aspects and fields of life.

Ikhwanweb: Some western writers and researchers who are interested in the Islamic movements view that the repeated times of detention and confrontation happened to Brothers have influenced them, especially the leaders among them who became more conservative and strict, how do you respond to that?

This is not true, because we have extensive literature on how to deal with suppression, and the need of patience in the pursuit of reform. We find that in tens of verses of Quran, biography Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions. Our principles are the same whether we are detained or freemen.

Ikhwanweb: MB bloggers have become a phenomenon that triggered arguments and disputes; some thinkers and writers in the West regard this trend as a positive trend that provoked some new ideas. How do you see the bloggers phenomenon?

This phenomenon was only made possible through the new innovations of new ways for expressing opinions. People who suffer from persecution under a dictatorial regime use such tools to get their voices heard.

As for the Brotherhood’s bloggers, they express their personal opinions with their own ways. It is a healthy phenomenon when youth among Brothers express themselves and opinions, but the matter will not be disciplined at the beginning.

I believe it won’t be long before MB bloggers are organized and disciplined without any need for intervention from their leadership. Dialogue amongst themselves and with senior leaders and members will help in that.

I have no doubts about the sincerity of bloggers, and believe it is necessary to listen to them and give them the freedom to express their opinions; we already listen to other people, so they are worthy of our attention and listening and if we find a beneficial matters in their opinions, we shall adopt them, and if there we do not found, it would be our duty to discuss the matter with them until they understand our view if not accept it.

Ikhwanweb: Some analysts pointed out to bloggers’ criticism as a manifestation of critical chasm between the leaders and youth in MB Group, do you agree?

It is not right to generalize the matter in this manner; there is a large number of active MB bloggers who criticize leadership, but it is still a very small percentage of the MB bloggers and youth.

Also, bloggers usually express their first impressions which is based on incomplete information and insufficient experience. I don’t want to make generalization here, but a large number of them courageously revisit their stances after discussions with senior MB members. Our youth love and search for the truth and they are ready to adopt it wherever they find it.

Ikhwanweb: With regard to the military tribunals, don’t you see that the role of young activists was crucial in revealing the truth and in attracting local and international attention?

No doubt they played a great and influential role in the campaign against the tribunals. They were able to reveal the matter at the time when the MB suffered an extreme manipulative media campaign.  They successfully responded to fabricated and false accusations, and made themselves heard.

During this tough repression, our bloggers revealed and disclosed the injustice and despotism directed to MB. We have to salute them and encourage them to go ahead in their deeds not only to disclose the injustice and persecution of military tribunals waged against Brothers, but also the injustice and persecution happen against any class in society, such as jurists, members of teaching staff, engineers, journalists, workers, poor people, and torture happens against common people, and to be interested in human rights in order to form a powerful public opinion against injustice and corruption in this country.

Ikhwanweb: What do you expect from the military tribunals before which MB Deputy Chief Khairat Al-Shater and 39 other leaders and members are being trialed?

Military tribunals are lamentable because their judges lack independence; they are employees in the executive system of the state and are not just or fair. Moreover, there are no valid reasons for the tribunals and they are against the laws and constitution which stipulate that every man has the right to be judged before his natural judge.

Tribunals are against all national and international charters. Transferring Brothers to the military tribunal is an extralegal measure made possible by virtue of emergency law which has no valid reasons to be existed or implanted.

There are three justifications to the existence of emergency law; the state of war, civil war and the existence of an epidemic diseases. None of these exists in Egypt, which has been ruled by emergency law for the past 26 years.

Civilian courts have always released MB detainees, so the regime has always resorted to military tribunals when attempting to put MB leaders behind bars. The only time a MB leader appeared before a civilian court was a couple of years ago when late Dr Hasan el Hayawan was transferred to highest state security court and the judges were civilians who ordered his immediate release. MB leaders now standing before a military tribunal received four acquittals from civilian courts.

The regime only uses military tribunals to reach verdicts that are politically motivated. This is why I am not at all optimistic.

Ikhwanweb: Regarding the platform, the first draft which was released a few months ago was faced by a storm of criticism, especially in respect of eligibility of woman and Copts to to run for presidency. Doesn’t the MB’s stance contradict its endorsement of citizenship?

Citizenship is an integral part of the Islamic system, and it is endorsed by the Egyptian constitution. Yet the latter stipulates some terms and conditions that are required before nomination or candidacy to such office. For example, the candidate must be of Egyptian parents, that is to say, if he descends from an Egyptian father and a Syrian mother, he doesn”t have the right of candidacy, at that time, would such matter be against the right of citizenship.

The constitution also stipulates that candidate should be over forty years old. A candidate who is 39 years and 11 months doesn”t have the right to run for presidency. Again, would such matter be against the right of citizenship.

According to our understanding of Islamic Shariah, women and non-Muslims don”t have the right to lead or govern Muslim states in which the majority of citizens are Muslims such as Egypt.

Head of state from an Islamic perspective is responsible for protection of religion and regulation of life. It is unfair to ask a non-Muslim to take care of the former.

The vast majority of Muslim scholars argue that women don”t have the right to assume the highest authority in the Islamic state and we have not seen in the history of Islam that a woman ruled the Islamic Ummah or the Islamic state.

One should also ask: how many women presidents does the world have today? There are only a few successful examples.

Ikhwanweb: Some people say: in the state of institutions, the character of ruler does not matter a lot?

Even if we have the state of institutions, the ruler is the symbol of the state and his position, opinion, and character would be so respected and considered. Besides, there would be many urgent issues which require quick decisions to be taken by the ruler and without referring to the pertained institutions.

Ikhwanweb: How do you see the role of MB in the syndicates?

MB members have an important role in syndicates. Members of different syndicates feel the results of efforts exerted by MB members. Success and triumph of MB in elections is a clear evidence for that.

MB’s experience in syndicates is fruitful and inspiring. Unfortunately, the regime cracks down on sincere and good efforts and endeavors, because it fears it will further increase our popularity at the cost of theirs. They do not try to compete with us, they try to eliminate us, to get rid of them. That is why the laws of supervision were imposed on syndicates.

Ikhwanweb: Syndicates provide services and help to their members, but MB is accused of using them for political propaganda and for promoting their own ideas?

Syndicates have many objectives; most importantly improving the level of provision and providing services for the members of syndicates. MB members clearly succeeded in both matters. The third important objective is to be concerned with interests of the state.

To be true, MB used syndicates excessively in politics, much more thanwhat the regime would bear. This is why the regime attempted to eliminate our presence in syndicates.

We will reconsider excessive participation in syndicates. Our decision to run for syndicates council elections was due to persecution and despotism; there is no newspaper in which we could express ourselves, satellite channels and mass media was not accessible,  and we were never able to form a political party. We had to look for alternatives to continue our activities.

The conditions have now changed. One should also assert that this should not be used to deny that our political calculations were mistaken, and that participating in syndicates was so excessive more that what the government could bear.

Ikhwanweb: What is the attitude of MB towards inheritance of authority?

No political group in Egypt has expressed its opinion as much as the MB has. I am certain that one of the main reasons for the military tribunal is the inheritance issue; the MB is punished for its refusal of inheritance.

Ikhwanweb: When is revolting against this dictatorial regime justifiable in MB thought?

Revolution has no place in the thought or principles of MB because the harms and losses of revolution would be more than its benefits and advantages. This is why we opt for peaceful gradual reform and change. We know our peaceful gradual struggle requires patience, and this is why we are not concerned with our goals achieved or not during our lifetime.

The core area of our peaceful reform agenda is education; we work to improving and reforming the values, thoughts, and morals.

Revolutions cause anarchy, shedding blood, and devastating the infrastructure of the state. This never serves the country’s national interests. We absolutely refuse revolution.

Ikhwanweb: What has the MB achieved over its 80 years of existence?

We have achieved many goals; the Egyptian public opinion now supports MB though. There was a time when belonging to the MB or its ideology was a crime not socially acceptable.

Ikhwanweb: You repeatedly speak about Egyptians supporting the MB. If that is true, why isn’t MB ruling Egypt?

Because the regime is dictatorial and does not respect its people’s will. The regime is backed by Western governments which are afraid of the Islamic ascent.

Ikhwanweb: How do you see the situation of MB before and after the election of 2005?

The 2005 elections showed the true political weight of the MB in Egypt, despite the violations that took place in the second and third stages. Egyptians support us because of our principles and thoughts. Elections taught us one again that our effort and striving have not come to grief.

However, this success had a negative impact on the MB. It caused severe hostility from the regime, and some marginal political parties as they found that they have no weight in comparison with MB.

Fears of rising Islamism caused Western governments to soften their pressure for democratization. Today, we pay the price for this all in prisons, military tribunals, and confiscation of wealth of businessmen belonging to MB.

Ikhwanweb: What about freedom inside MB?

Everyone inside MB has the right to express himself freely and independently, and then he should try hard to convince others of his opinions and notions; if he succeeded to convince a majority, then we would adopt his opinion, otherwise, he should adhere to decisions agreed upon by a majority.

Ikhwanweb: Where is the share of woman in the leading positions within the MB?

We welcome the participation of woman in all our activities, but, the conditions and circumstances we face and live in deny them this right. The ongoing threat of being subjected to detention, torture, beating up in streets, and many other savage acts, makes us choose to protect female members by keeping them away from the frontlines when it comes to politics, though they still play an important leadership role in our other activities.

Ikhwanweb: In case you have a legal party, would you allow woman to occupy the position of the party leader?

Women have the right to occupy all positions except the office of presidency. That means that we women are more than welcome to compete for the party’s presidency and leadership, and more than welcome to become presidents if they are competent.

Ikhwanweb: How does the MB view relations with the West?

We don’t believe in sweeping generalizations, and believe the West is not a unified entity. There is a difference between civil society and intelligentsia on the one hand and the governments on the other hand. We try to communicate our values of dialogue and mutual respect to all, in order to live in a more stable world. We welcome contact Western people to change the false image about MB. We have no embedded enmity against governments, but unfortunately the opposite is true. We suffer from their enmity of governments that take a strong stance against Islamists, and continue their aggression and invasion of independent Arab and Muslim countries.

Ikhwanweb: What kind of relationship does the MB have with the American administration?

The American administration, especially the current administration, has a very hostile stance regarding Arabs and Muslims. They are skeptical of the Islamic ascent to the extent that they reversed the democracy promotion policy. They continue to support the region’s dictatorial regimes.

We are never against dialogue, and are always ready to talk with any individual or researcher from the West. But we do respect the Egyptian law, and would only talk to Western governments in presence of Egyptian government officials. We take this stance because we have nothing to hide, and want to send a clear message to the Egyptian regime that we will not collaborate with anyone against our national interests.

But the Bush administration is not willing to talk to us. We do not seek the help of American administration against our government. We seek reform not authority, and when we seek authority, we do it to facilitate reform. In our course we do not rely on the help of American administration, but rather on Egyptians.

Ikhwanweb: What is the difference between MB and al-Qaeda network?

There is a huge difference between the Brotherhood and al Qaeda. We are a reformist movement that has a totally different worldview, we denounce violence, do not accuse people of infidelity, have a different understanding on the Islamic state and of the political means that should be used. Qaeda is not the same and its deeds harm Islam and Muslims more that benefiting them.

Ikhwanweb: As you call for power sharing in the authority of state, why don’t  we see or hear of a former chairman of MB?

In 1954, MB was severely treated by the regime and its leaders and members were detained for decades. Upon their release from prison, MB members resumed their activities. There was not limit to the number of terms each should serve in leadership positions.

A few years later, we changed our internal laws and stipulated that the chairman assumes his office through elections and for two rounds only, the round is six years. The only reason why we have no exchairmen is that leaders are selected to their position old in age.