Interview with Muslim Brotherhood Chairman Mohamed Mahdy Akef
Interviewed by – Abdul Galil Al Sharnoubi
-We prepare for a national coalition that includes all parties and movements besides active individuals across the political spectrum in Egypt
– The Muslim Brotherhood faces difficulties and obstacles to the level of bone crushing attempts, how-ever the MB movement has been able-with the help of Allah, to withstand it all and continued its peaceful activities in the society
– Those gossiping about schism in our ranks should prove this
– Our fellow compatriots can’t endure the regime’s tyranny or disasters
– My visit to Wafd Party was an apology for an unpremeditated mistake
– I refuse Tawreeth (hereditary transfer of rule) to Gamal Mubarak. No matter who is next so long as democracy is absent
– Tyranny will not prevent the Muslim Brotherhood members from reforming their families and the society
– We are not infallible. We are open to any one who criticizes us and will clarify our attitudes
– I asked Iraqi offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood to study the SOFA agreement although I am concerned over it
– We learn from families of Al Shater and fellow jailed MB leaders to give a priority to homeland over our interests
The following is a translation of a video interview Ikhwanonline has conducted with MB Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Mahdi Akef, in order to acquaint the public opinion with the Muslim Brotherhood”s attitudes. The interview discusses the latest developments in the Arab and Muslim world in general and
First, do you feel optimistic?
Akef: Yes, I am very optimistic.
Despite the current detentions, tortures, political deadlock and arrogance?
Akef: Yes, and despite the ignorance overshadowing the regime and its followers.
What makes you have such optimism?
Akef: First of all, Allah has promised to back believers and devotees, and He has ordered us to work hard and fight persistently all kinds of corruption and frustration. Any believer must boast the support of Allah and be proud of the values and principles of this great religion; he must feel the greatness, strength and hope this religion brings on. This religion has spread values and principles across the globe and urged its followers and supporters to have a sound belief and correct worship. It orders them to do their duty to serve their countries, their Daawa (proselytizing) and Islam. We hope Allah helps us do these huge and great duties.
I wonder how any believer in this religion and group could feel humiliated due to the current political and security conditions. For Muslims, the world is only a passageway in which they are required to do their duties and serve their religion, country and mankind.
I also wonder how such mentalities that lead the nation could deprive it of this great blessing. Allah commands us to serve humankind, country and people in all aspects of life, be it culture, education, economy or even sport. I wonder why they deny people the services of this great generation who were disciplined by this religion through the ideology and methodology of Hassan Al Banna. However, true believers in this methodology bear a great and heavy burden, and in such tough conditions, it is only men and women with resolve who can carry it.
Let me speak in the name of the Muslim Brotherhood public opinion. After the Muslim Brotherhood had acquired 88 parliamentary seats in 2005 elections, a feeling of pride and victory came over people, and work accelerated in the project of reform. However, the curve went down leading to the disappointing results in the Shura Council (upper house of Parliament) and municipal elections, and the military tribunals. All these factors have undoubtedly had a negative effect, in addition to the current media smearing campaign which focuses mainly on schisms in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Akef: No, let”s handle the first part of your question and then move to discuss these alleged schisms in detail.
Regarding the post-2005 state of pride, the Muslim Brotherhood win of such a number of seats is considered a very modest result compared with the total number of seats, given that we fielded only 150 or 160 out of more than 450 candidates. However, this result was alarming to oppressive and corrupt people who want to maintain their current positions. They saw a new spirit growing into the nation, calling for Allah, preaching good manners, justice, freedom and circulation of power. But they don”t want this so they launched bone crushing crackdowns on the group.
This came to my knowledge through a man who I think was speaking the truth. Such repression started with the amendment of the constitution to serve the interests of tyranny and injustice and make it legalized. This was maintained by the military tribunals, the freezing of people’s assets and denying them their decent living. But this has never undermined our confidence; in fact this showed the steadfastness of the Muslim Brotherhood members from all regions. Moreover, domestic and international human rights and civil society institutions have condemned such repressions.
These people are shameless; the total assets seized from Muslim Brotherhood members are no more than 20 or 24 million pounds, which are less than what one of their men paid as an engagement present for his fiancé. They arrested an old man on charges of manufacturing a drone. Those who arrest innocent people and throw them behind bars are the real criminals. We- The Muslim Brotherhood- have brains, logic and good manners. We do not care about what befalls us; we are more concerned about the people and how to do them good. However, they want to prevent us from serving people.
In 2004, I announced the Reform Initiative. In 2005, we started efforts to unite all sections across the political spectrum in the nation, spawning coalition in which the Muslim Brotherhood was a role-model; especially in accepting views of all sections. The Muslim Brotherhood even assumed the General Secretariat of the 36-member coalition, and took only 9 seats out of 36 even though they were handling everything, to give a chance to all movements to be represented. However, this coalition collapsed, I’m not so sure if it was the government behind this failure or anybody else.
Then we joined the National Front of Change founded by former Prime Minister Dr. Aziz Sedki who had repeatedly said- till he died:” You are the only active group in Egypt”, but I said to him:” We are backing you and we want to mend fences and reach unity.” After he died, no one could fill his position. Even nowadays, when I call for any gathering, all attendees- intellectuals and party figures- jointly say:” We want the Muslim Brotherhood to launch another reunion campaign”. I say we are ready and we are preparing for it, God willing.
How can Muslim Brotherhood youth overcome the state of frustration and disappointment that the government, its services and laws seek to impose on members of the group?
Akef: The Muslim Brothers are members of the Egyptian society. The group includes students, workers, employees, traders and others; every category has its own guidance. Every Muslim Brotherhood member is always urged to do his duty towards himself first and to seek a role in this system. The Muslim Brotherhood doesn”t demand individuals to do more than their capabilities. When we say that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to reform the individual, the family and the society, then we are focusing on the individual, on an Egyptian role model in every section of the society. This is what we induce our children to be; we teach them how to be resolute, to have a message, and be rational, with a prolific knowledge, with sound belief and correct worship. This is our mission towards our brothers.
When I check my brothers, I find them adopting the same beliefs. They are always seeking to be strong, with good manners, wide knowledge and sound belief. This is the cornerstone without which no reform can be attained.
So do you mean fulfilling what Imam Al Banna had called for: establishing the concept of the Islamic state in the individual’s heart first?
Akef: Yes, the individual begins with reforming himself then his family. I think whatever intervention from security forces and the corrupt regime, there will be no effect on the process of reform. The more our members adhered to this, the more the schemes of the regime failed.
Collective actions such as student unions elections, municipal or Shura Council elections, they have their own conditions and calculations; the MB”s view is clear on such issues. I challenge anyone from the National Democratic Party or its policy committee to agree on what was committed in these elections. MB rejects these methods since we refuse using force in confrontation. We are proud that what we do is right.
Muslim Brotherhood Infallible
What about the media smear campaign and verbal war launched from time to time against the Muslim Brotherhood?
Akef: Media is divided into two categories: mercenary media which we know very well and don”t answer back. I advise the Muslim Brotherhood members not to read or care about them. I do not take my view about the Muslim Brotherhood from such kind of press; I take it from reality. If I live inside the Muslim Brotherhood, it is their reality that guides me and assures me not the perversive press. Once a newspaper said that The Muslim Brotherhood will assassinate their chairman, and this is silly. I don”t read or respond to this kind of press.
The second kind of media claims seeking the truth, presenting pros and cons. I respect such people and welcome them. Even if they are skeptical, the reality on the ground and the future will prove that the Muslim Brotherhood is deeply rooted with its method, members and with its devotion to Allah and honesty with people. Time will prove this.
There is also another voice which is credible but unfortunately I do not know the source of its agenda. This media talks about the Muslim Brotherhood then say: “I am not with them and I differ with them on many issues”. They know the truth but a few of them declare their views. There are people of the Egyptian society: Men, professors, scholars and scientists who say their views honestly. I appreciate those specially, since as I have said before only men and women of resolve can do so.
Does this mean that the Muslim Brotherhood is infallible and doesn”t commit organizational mistakes?
Akef: No, sometimes I raise my voice. I listen to and hear from those who criticize MB leaders and I welcome this, but all I hope is that any one who criticizes us comes to know the truth and the circumstances in which this or that action has been carried out. MB members sometimes criticize without getting fully acquainted with the circumstances of the issue, but it is a pleasure to hear their criticism and respond to it. I do not get fed up with any person criticizing me. I am not flawless; I may err and may also be right.
MB commits some mistakes, but there is a difference between erring and defiance, and erring but attempting to correct these errors. Only a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood may amplify mistakes. Erring is a human trait and a part of the power- not weakness- of men who seek rightfulness as much as they can.
People sometimes forget that the MB Chairman does not work alone. He is backed by many organizational bodies: the Executive Office, the Advisory Board and other sections and committees. When I talk about something, I do not speak on my own; I consult many specialists and put a lot of study into the matter prior to talking. Many issues are decided by the Muslim Brotherhood figures and bodies and I declare them as symbol of the group. I was once asked about the job of the Executive Office members, and I answered that they have the same powers of the MB Chairman. I was consequently asked about my own job, I replied that all strings meet at my office.
The human soul differs from one individual to the other, and endurance differs from one individual to another. For example, when state security forces intimidate, electrocute and beat a person, some may tolerate this without being intimidated while others may not endure this and face even tougher actions. I am astounded by their actions because some of these torturers are good intellectually, but they allow themselves and their services to do such actions. This is schizophrenic.
MB members and leaders have undoubtedly faced tough torture and oppression. When security services storm into a shop and take the money inside it, isn”t this called robbery? When they close a shop and deny its workers their living, from where will they earn their keep? These are minor businesses which should be supported and increased in order to fight poverty and unemployment rather than to be fought. Aren’t the Muslim Brothers Egyptian? We ask God to help us endure such trivialities. We deal with this arrogant and tyrannical regime wisely and patiently for the sake of this homeland because such a regime disrespects people.
I cannot expose the Egyptian people to any upheaval so we endure this criminality and ordeals only for the sake of
What has happened in America is unimaginable. This stock crash and near recession came due to tyranny, lack of manners and values in their capitalist system. They all recognize this including the French President Nichols Sarkozy and others; it is a capitalist system without manners, without values and violates any legal and human principles.
What is happening in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan is unacceptable, it is something beyond the ability of a balanced mind to understand. Even turkey has begun using aircrafts like Bush and strike the Kurds, though
Are you addressing this call also to the regime?
Akef: Yes, also to the regime, but I know it turns a deaf ear.
Deal with Regime
Some may interpret such a call to the regime that you are extending your hands to forge a deal with it.
Akef: This is absurd. Those people think that such allegations about a deal with the regime will destabilize the Muslim Brotherhood. We only say to them: Come on to think together and work together, and sit on one table for the sake of our country. We don’t seek any personal benefits, or set any conditions to reach an understanding with anyone. We seek this only for the sake of the nation. When we meet with parties we say:” our country,
For example, we drafted a party platform and announced it an initial draft and sent it to all intellectuals; I told them in a letter,” We welcome your views.” However, on the next morning we were stunned by the press attacking issues they misunderstood. I called some of them and told them: haven’t I sent you an enclosed letter and asked you to reply to me not to the press. They apologized in reply; all of them said this was a mistake.
National Coalition Project
Mr. Chairman, You are talking about what the Muslim Brotherhood can give to benefit this country, and that this can never be interpreted as a deal. Last Ramadan, you invited some top intellectuals and politicians to attend a small Iftar (fast breaking meal) party, after the Muslim Brotherhood”s general Iftar party was cancelled. All attendants who were top political, national and intellectual figures in Egypt agreed unanimously on a main agenda. What can the Muslim Brotherhood do to activate this agenda that includes putting an end to the state of emergency, giving freedom in forming parties, allowing a peaceful transfer of power and the liberty to form and publish newspapers…etc. How can the Muslim Brotherhood do this while many political powers in
Akef: We are serious in doing this jointly with all honest powers believing in this agenda. During the past few days, we have been pondering over what happened to the coalition, its pros and cons. We don”t want to repeat an experience that did not bear fruit, but we insist on establishing a coalition among all political powers and civil society, to sit together and lay down an agenda and a method through which we can improve this nation and help it out of this serious deadlock and tyranny that
Is there any message of assurance that the Muslim Brotherhood can give for political and national powers to overcome their state of caution and fear from dealing with or extending their hands to you?
Akef: My method and policy are clear. A professor or doctor who speaks about the Muslim Brotherhood”s duties and rights and generally concludes: “I differ with them as much as their ideology is concerned”; such kinds of people are more than welcome. But I wonder at those who just repeat what they hear without understanding, have they studied the method of the Muslim Brotherhood to differ with it? Or have they studied the Muslim Brotherhood”s history to say so? I welcome talks with rational people who base their opinions on studies, not rumors on newspapers. However, once such kind of people think of dialogue, I extend my hand to consult them over my defects if there are any.
Thank God, the Muslim Brotherhood has the ability to contain and listen to all people and speak with them. We will never concede our principles, and we will not concede our project. It is not a hollow project, it is a project based on Islam and history.
Visit to Al-Wafd Party
You paid a visit to liberal Wafd Party in the holy month of Ramadan, and another Muslim Brotherhood delegation went to visit Tagammu” Party. Is this a part of the policy of extending hands to political powers in order to close ranks under a clear and single national project? Or is it a preparation for the upcoming 2010 parliamentary elections?
Akef: First: The Muslim Brotherhood has never stopped extending its hands to all political powers. As for our visit to Al-Wafd and Tagammu” Parties in Ramadan, the visits weren’t to them only. 400 bags were sent to the ones who were invited to the canceled Ramadan Iftar. I sent them letters which enclosed some simple presents to 400 figures, not only to al-Wafd Party and Tagammu” Party. But al-Wafd Party has a special position, at least for me. Visits to other parties were carried out by Muslim Brotherhood MPs or Executive Office members, but there was a mistake in the appointment to visit al-Wafd Party, therefore I decided to correct it myself and apologize for it through my visit.
Does this mean that you weren’t planning from the beginning to pay the visit yourself?
Akef: No, I wasn”t. When I knew there was a mistake, I decided to correct it and apologize to Dr. Mahmoud Abaza myself. It was a visit which has no other meaning. There was no deal except on general principles. There was no agreement neither there nor at Tagammu” Party or any other party the Muslim Brotherhood paid a visit to.
Is it merely a public relations issue then?
Akef: It is a matter of public relations and appreciation, just to tell them that we invited them but couldn’t meet them. It was difficult to gather more than 400 after the general Iftar -which is usually attended by 1000 to 2000- was cancelled. We replaced it with a few meetings; each attended by 50 or 60 figures, to be able to achieve the communication aspired for through the general meeting. The outcome of such meetings was spectacular for both Muslim Brothers and the others.
The agenda of the National Reform project does not include contacting government to agree over who succeeds president Mubarak?
Akef: So far, I have never contacted the government. This raises my eyebrows but I don’t care whether they contact or not. I am with people, I contact people, and I don’t care about who succeeds the president because I know that tyrannical agendas and authoritarian conflicts spare us this issue without any intervention. I would have talked about this and intervened if we live in a homeland which enjoys freedom and enjoys a real democracy. As for now, it is useless to talk because such issues are finalized overnight between conflicting tyrants.
As for our public opinion, I think that people agree with us on rejecting Tawreeth specially transferring rule to Gamal. When I was asked about him when he first appeared, I said:” He is a citizen who has the right to run for elections, it is normal”, and people have the right to, choose but when they amended the constitution to introduce tailored articles for him or for his likes, I said: No, If he wants to run for presidency, he should leave his father palace and mix with people to see what he will do for them.
When he headed the NDP’s policies committee, a committee that cements tyranny and establishes military trials and other injustices- I said:” This is not good, there is a defect”. This is our view, but Allah Glory be to Him, fate and history and reality will have their say. As for all national powers- except for this few clique in the policies committee- all of them don’t and will not accept this Tawreeth. Ordinary people and all political powers reject this.
Mediation between Palestinians
How do you see the Egyptian mediation between the Palestinian factions?
Akef: We have very serious observations on the Egyptian government and its bias in favor of the Zionist project sponsored by some- not all- Fatah figures. We also have some remarks on the Foreign Minister statements and other figures, I appeal to God to save the intelligence service from such statements and this trend. But generally I speak out that the Palestinian nation including all factions should have a clear agenda and work for liberating their homeland. The Arab and Muslim Worlds are also involved in this agenda, because Palestine isn”t owned by the Palestinians alone, Al Aqsa Mosque isn”t owned by the Palestinians alone, Jerusalem isn”t owned by the Palestinians alone, but they are deemed holy by all Arabs and Muslims. Brothers in
But you communicate with Palestinian leaders.
Akef: I communicate with all of them, not only Palestinian leaders but also Malaysians and Pakistanis. I contact and welcome all people. I can”t express my views over the matter for the time being, but I talked with President Mahmoud Abbas, Ismail Haniya and Khaled Meshaal and discussed these matters with each other. I was very happy about that, and told Mahmoud Abbas that I was very happy they cooperated in a national unity government with two different agendas: a platform which adopts resistance and a platform that does not. This was a wonderful example of liberty and democracy. Two platforms moving and coexisting side by side, this is a wonderful example of resistance. I want our Palestinian brothers to have a stable agenda to preserve the Palestinian rights, people and agenda from Zionists and against any collaborators with them. Unfortunately, all Arab regimes- except a few- back the Zionist agenda, hence the siege of Gaza.
Suppose that America imposed a siege and the Zionists imposed a siege while Egypt and the Arab Nation said “No” like Hosni Mubarak when he said that he will not allow that Palestinians to starve. This should have been done from the beginning, but there are things that happen behind closed doors and they are not ashamed. I sometimes appreciate
In your latest phone call with Ismail Haniya, what have you advised him?
Akef: The same told to you, that we should hang on to the rightness that fulfills Palestinian aspirations, and that we should never concede any of the Palestinian rights by any means.
What is your opinion about the US-Iraq SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) agreement?
Akef: The SOFA agreement is serious as it consolidates the occupation and ends the sovereignty of Iraq. I didn”t speak out but I sent a letter to brothers in
So you recommend that SOFA be rejected?
Akef: I do not recommend any thing until they send me the outcome of their deliberations. They may be considering matters I have no idea of; therefore, I will give my clear view according to theirs.
Al- Shater and his brothers
Have you injected the Muslim Brotherhood”s Executive Office with five new members to fill the vacant seats after the military trials?
Akef: No, we don”t accept this. We go on according to the harsh and painful reality we are facing. We can”t convene the advisory board so we attempt to work for the benefit of the group and country with the least possible losses. The Advisory board can elect any Executive Office whose term is 4 years. There is a regulation that we adhere to.
But do the security conditions prevent this?
Akef: Yes that’s right. The regulation stipulates that: In case the regulation cannot be applied, the Executive Office takes over all powers of the advisory board. However, we try as much as we can not to go past the advisory body and consult it in many issues.
We want you to say something to our jailed brothers, on top of them engineer Khairat Al-Shater and Dr. Mohamed Ali Beshr.
Akef: Be patient, endure and observe Allah in all your actions. These are strong men, they are role-models whose names will be carved in history may Allah reward them for their plight. Those people’s money was confiscated, and they now lie in prison.
I appreciate them and their families who confronted such tyranny. Not only the Muslim Brothers of the military tribunals, but all also Muslim Brothers who lost their money, livelihood, liberties and were thrown behind bars and faced tortures.
I appreciate them all. What the Muslim Brothers face is beyond people”s endurance, but thanks be to God for their patience.
Are they steadfast?
Akef: They are not only steadfast; they also put the country and nation interests on top of their priorities. What we have faced is not easy, but we have endured all these calamities and we have been patient for the sake of the nation, not for the sake of those tyrants.