• MB News
  • May 29, 2007
  • 8 minutes read

Interview with the Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Interview with the Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al Awsat, at his office in al Manyal, in the governorate of al Jizah, Greater Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, reaffirmed he was the sole chief of the organization in Egypt. He added that when political differences emerged within the ranks, similarly to any other organization, they are resolved from within the group. He denied rumors that Brotherhood members had submitted a memorandum urging the organization to return to its dawa (missionary) work. Akef also rejected stories that Dr. Abdul Munim Abdul al Futuh, member of the General Guidance Council had been relieved of his duties.

He stressed his admiration for Dr. al Futuh, a prominent figure in the organization.

No deal had been reached between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian government, Akef confirmed.

Following is the text of the interview in full (Note: This interview was conducted before the Sharm el-Sheik bombings) :

Q: Rumors abound of a split within the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Is there any truth to this?

A: Before I answer the question, let me emphasize that differences of opinion occur in every political organization. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood might hold divergent opinions. These differences are resolved within the organization.

Some people consider this dynamism proof of a division. If splits are indeed occurring, how represents the conflicting sides? How do these differences vary from normal disagreements that occur in all political groups and parties worldwide?

These rumors were started, as everybody is well aware, by Brotherhood members who have turned against the organization. These stories are being repeated by certain parties to undermine us and cast doubt on our policies.

Q: A memorandum was issued two weeks ago. Its authors, who are Brotherhood members, said they were prevented from meeting you. The document criticized the lack of democracy and the prevalence of the principle “I listen and I obey”. They also called on the organization to withdraw from politics and return to social work.

A: I can confirm the memorandum does not exist. I have not received a copy. Don’t you and other journalists know my work and home telephone numbers and my mobile number? You should give them to these people and let them get in touch with me so they could put forward their view.

Q: But these men have already asked to meet you and you have refused?

A: No Brotherhood member has asked to meet me and had his request declined. I challenge anyone to say that I have shut the door of my office or home to them. I appeal to these men, through Asharq Al Awsat, to come forward and discuss their viewpoint with me. Consultation is important for the Brotherhood. It is a duty for our members and not just a matter of principle.

Q: On the subject of consultation, how was a prominent figure drive out from the Brotherhood without a clear process? I am referring in this instance to the lawyer Mukhtar Nuh.

A: I challenge Mukhtar Nuh to prove he was expelled or his membership frozen. The Office of Guidance decided to exclude the lawyer, owing to certain actions by Nuh, from the Chairmanship of the Lawyer’s Committee. This is within their powers.

Nuh submitted a written note objecting to this dismissal. I referred the matter to the investigative authorities within the Brotherhood which supported the decision. I then met with Nuh and asked him to become my political advisor but he declined; he wanted to return to the committee. This behavior was unacceptable: no one has the right to impose their view on the organization. Nuh seems to be more concerned about his love for himself than the Brotherhood. I hope he rids himself of these feelings.

Q: A number of members use the same terminology regarding Dr. Abdul Munim Abu al Futuh who, according to recent reports, has also been expelled from the General Guidance Guide.

A: Abu al Futuh has not and will not be dismissed from the Council. He is an ambitious and sincere young man who I have a great love and respect for which I believe is reciprocated. I am surprised by the stories you refer to. We met on Wednesday, a fortnight ago at a Council meeting. He visited me two days ago to discuss his upcoming trip to London.

Journalists need to beware of rumors that will increase in the near future as some quarters try to weaken the Brotherhood.

Q: But why now?

A: Those who want to destroy us want our efforts to save Egypt to fail. They are resorting to all methods at their disposal to ensure we do.

Q: In your opinion, do the frequent appearances of Dr. Mohammed Sayyid Habib (member in Egypt’s People’s Assembly) in the media might encourage some to believe the Muslim Brotherhood now has several leaders, one of whom is Dr. Habib?

A: I am the one and only leader of the Brotherhood in Egypt. Ever since I was elected to the post, I have permitted other prominent members to speak to the media. I canceled the position of official spokesperson because I believe in democracy and the freedom of each member to say as he pleases, as long as does not hurt anyone.

I agree with Dr. Habib’s pronouncements as he has repeated the conclusions of the General Guidance Council. Ultimately, the Brotherhood has one head and one elected supreme leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef.

Q: Why are members of the Muslim Brotherhood sensitive to criticism?

A: Personally, I welcome objective criticism and I open my office and my heart and listen attentively. I have never lost patience with critics. Who of us does not commit mistakes? Like any other political faction, the Muslim Brotherhood is sometimes wrong. Because of the size of our membership and our influence our mistakes are blown out of proportion.

Hasn’t the Brotherhood already achieved so much? Why do some refer to our errors and forget our successes? Why is it the case that, every time the government attacks us, journalists join forces and accuse us of a variety of ills? Aren’t we allowed to be suspicious in these instances?

The door to my office remains open. I am ready to accept criticism whose aim is to serve the umma (nation) and our homeland.

Q: There is talk of the Brotherhood striking a deal with the government, especially after you announced an end to civil disobedience. In return for peace, the Egyptian government is releasing your jailed officials. This thaw in relations has also coincided with a meeting between Gamal, the son of President Hosni Mubarak, and two of your members. What is your reaction?

A: Let me start of by saying the meeting occurred independently of the Brotherhood. It was a private affair that I found out about after it took place. As far as I am aware, the discussion did not mention the Brotherhood at all.

Many believe that demonstrating is the only form of political activity. This is of course false. The Brotherhood believes protest is a means to an end. It has already fulfilled its function. If the need should arise in the future, we will return to the streets.

Nowadays, we are more interested in holding conference and seminars in an attempt to unify the opposition that, ultimately, will help us achieve the reforms the Egyptian people aspire to.

Q: Incidentally, almost all the political forces have declared their refusal to join such an alliance. Some have attributed their refusal to the fact that it was the Brotherhood alone that called for the constituent conference. Why did you not join with other forces in addressing the invitation to the conference?

A: We invited everyone to discussion conferences and workshops to determine a minimal program on which we would agree and to find appropriate means to achieve it. We formed a constituent committee from those who attended. The committee will discuss drawing up a comprehensive program for the alliance. If there are political forces that will boycott it, so be it. What should we do? We have declared our aspiration to cooperate on the basis of complete equality among all the forces. However, there are those who do not want to pay the price. We, for our part, are prepared to pay the full bill for reform, for the sake of the people who have put their trust in us