Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Dr. Mahmoud Hussein criticized Egypt’s opposition media, claiming that they report lies and fabrication. Hussein, also a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, also spoke about the political situation in Egypt, the rumors regarding the so-called Muslim Sisterhood, and the Brotherhood’s chances at the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Born in Jaffa, Palestine, in 1947, Mahmoud Hussein grew up in Beersheba and attended high school in Rafah, Gaza, at a time when it was under Egyptian rule. He reportedly became active in the Muslim Brotherhood in the late 1970s while studying at Iowa City University in the US, serving as president of the Brotherhood-affiliated Muslim American Youth Association (MAYA). During this period, he met with other future Brotherhood leaders including President Mohamed Mursi. Upon returning to Egypt, Hussein became a professor of engineering at Egypt’s Assiut University.
He was arrested on a number of occasions for his Brotherhood ties, being imprisoned between1995 and 1998. He was elected to the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau in 2004 and currently serves as the Brotherhood’s Secretary-General. He is one of the four Muslim Brotherhood leaders responsible for coordination with the Freedom and Justice Party.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Q: You have been quoted as saying that the Muslim Brotherhood’s real battle is with the media and that the calls to oust President Mohamed Mursi have no value. Do you stand by these statements? Why did you characterize the Brotherhood’s relationship with the media as a battle? Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that the Brotherhood has failed to win over Egypt’s media?
A: Firstly, what has been attributed to me in the press is not accurate. As for saying that the Brotherhood failed to win over the media . . . if you are talking about the biased media outlets that are telling lies about the Brotherhood, then such media outlets are not with the people, nor do they have professional journalistic standards. The fair media that reports the facts is not against the Muslim Brotherhood, nor are we against it.
Regarding the calls to topple the president, these have no value because real opposition includes opposition of policies and views and the proposal of alternatives and solutions. There are constitutional mechanisms for deposing a president elected by the people, therefore what we are hearing from many of those that the media has dubbed the opposition is absurd, and nothing more than an attempt to create chaos and incite violence. They are seeking to topple the state, not just the president. Anybody who monitors the media on a daily basis will be able to see this clearly. We do not care who is behind this, for this is the task of the competent authorities, rather we believe that the truth will come out regardless of how falsehood attempts to conceal it. This is something that has always been proven by history.
Q: President Mursi, and prior to this Muslim Brotherhood Deputy Supreme Guide Khairat El-Shater, affirmed the success of the Brotherhood’s Renaissance program. However the economic, political and social situation in Egypt today hardly lends itself to the term renaissance. What is the reason for this?
A: I believe that those trying to promote and incite violence and disrupt production are the same people trying to stop Egypt’s renaissance, regardless of the presence of this project. It is not logical during the current fluid situation, when the president has only been in power for a short term and there is general instability present on the scene, for this (project) to be able to solve economic and social problems created by decades-long corruption and political tyranny.
Q: Could you comment on allegations that Khairat El-Shater is the man who is truly responsible for the Brotherhood’s development file, and oversees foreign relations and the renaissance project? What is El-Shater’s real role in the Brotherhood and government?
A: These are all lies and fabrications designed to tarnish the image of Khairat El-Shater, as well as tarnish the image of the president by claiming that somebody is manipulating him from behind the scenes. Everybody knows-and the evidence confirms-that the president is managing the state through its institutions and via his own aides and advisers and that the Muslim Brotherhood has no involvement in this. As for the Brotherhood, it is administered through its own institutions and is not ruled or driven by any single figure. El-Shater responsibility for the development file does not mean that he is the decision-maker; rather everything that is decided must go through the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau for approval and amendment. These decisions are then raised to the Shura Council for approval. This applies to all files supervised by the Brotherhood Guidance Bureau members.
Q: The National Salvation Front is calling for protests against the government and president, seeking to oust Mursi and revoke the constitution. They are citing the presence of political tyranny and injustice. What would you like to say to the National Salvation Front leaders?
A: I would tell the National Salvation Front to respect God and the Egyptian people and carry out a real constructive opposition and put forward practical solutions to resolve the country’s many problems. They must know that the people will not forgive their calls for violence and history will record this against them, for God will preserve Egypt from all evils.
Q: Some political parties are calling for the dismantling of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least to modify its legal status. What’s your response to this?
A: The Muslim Brotherhood has been legal since it was established under the former regime, however when a law is ratified regarding the Brotherhood’s structure, at this point it will be incumbent on all bodies, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to reconcile their positions according to this new law.
Regarding the sources of financing, the Brotherhood is self-funded from the pockets of its members and the Brotherhood does not receive any financial support from any domestic or foreign or international organization.
Q: Is there any truth to the rumors regarding the so-called Muslim Sisterhood and the establishment of a parallel Muslim Sisterhood Guidance Bureau? Does this have anything to do with the reported Muslim Sisterhood group uncovered in the UAE? Is the Brotherhood intending to expand in the Gulf States?
A: Such talk is completely false, and comes as part of the usual repeated claims against the Brotherhood.
There is a special file regarding the Muslim Sisterhood . . . to accompany the changing atmosphere in Egypt.
The Brotherhood in any country operates according to the local laws and in favor of the people. They had been present (in the UAE) for a number of years and there has been no evidence that they did anything illegal.
Q: Do you believe that the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party will be able to win a parliamentary majority in the next election? If the Brotherhood does win a majority, do you think that the other political parties will accept the election results?
A: The political forces will not accept the verdict of the ballot box unless it is in their own favor, so how can they talk about democracy? [Asharq Al-Awsat] As an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader born in Palestine, what is your view of Egyptian-Israeli relations? How can we solve the Palestinian crisis? [Hussein] The Brotherhood’s position is to support the Palestinian Cause and the Palestinian people, until their full rights are returned to them. My personal position is identical to the Brotherhood’s position, because we believe that rights are not lost so long as the people continue to call for them, and no country can reside and settle on land that does not belong to it. Therefore the Zionist presence on Palestinian land is temporary and fleeting, God willing. As for Egyptian Israeli relations, these are relations between nations that are governed by treaties and diplomacy, and you should ask those responsible for this for their opinions on this issue.