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Asharq Al-Awsat Talks to Sheikh Mazhar Shahin | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- In an exclusive interview, Asharq Al-Awsat talks to Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, the Imam of Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square, which has gained notoriety for its links to the 25 January revolution.

Sheikh Mazhar Shahin, who is described as the preacher of the revolution, reveals for the first time that he has recently been subjected to an assassination attempt when an unknown person fired at him. Shahin points out that this attack is part of a scheme to thwart the revolution, a scheme that has already started by attempting to distort the image of Tahrir Square, the Kiblah of the revolution.

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Today, Al-Tahrir Square is a completely different place from the 18 days that toppled former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. As the Imam of Omar Makram Mosque that overlooks the square, how do you see Tahrir today?

[Shahin] Al-Tahrir Square is a victim, as it is a place that receives whoever comes to it. What I sense is that there are sides and individuals of the remnants of the previous regime, who push certain elements into Tahrir Square to distort its image, because there are those who do not want the square to remain an expression of the Egyptian pride and dignity. Distorting the image of the square is a systematic work. I have witnessed many stories aimed at thwarting any gathering in Tahrir Square, even gatherings by friends to agree on a meal they were going to buy.

The fact is that the issue has not stopped at the borders of the square. There is a desire to distort the image of anything linked to the revolution, whether it is places or individuals. This is to the extent that specific attacking media channels have a list of 20 individuals at whom charges of agency are levelled, and who are described relentlessly as saboteur enemies of the country and of Islam, but when you examine these names you will find that they are symbols of the Egyptian revolution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that the internet video showing unknown people in civilian clothes torturing individuals on the roof of Omar Makram Mosque, is a part of what you call “the process of distorting the image of the revolution?” [Shahin] The fact is that these unknown people came at 0700 hours, broke the back door of the mosque, and climbed to the roof. We do not know who was beating, and who was being beaten. We have heard many stories about the truth of the torture scenes that were shown on Internet websites, but what is amazing is that the individuals shown being tortured, and those who were torturing them came down from the roof of the mosque in complete harmony, and none of them screamed for help from the people. What is sad is that those who wanted to distort the image of the revolution and of the revolutionaries were not prevented by the shame of distorting the image of Houses of God on earth.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, who are those present in Tahrir Square at the moment?

[Shahin] I believe that it is a mixture that combines the revolution youths, the families of those injured in the revolution, and of course the thugs! I admit that there are those who push forward the thugs, the drug dealers, and some ill-reputed girls to distort the image of the square, but who is responsible for these negative aspects? I believe that the police are responsible, and ought to carry out campaigns to arrest these.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] But similar statements by leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood accuse those in the street of undertaking immoral practices, and such statements have aroused the anger of the revolutionary powers. Why should we accept from you these descriptions now? [Shahin] No, there is an essential difference. I do not say that everyone in the square is either a thug or a drug dealer. We should not forget, and the Muslim Brotherhood should not forget that the accusations were poured on its members during the era of Mubarak, and we did not believe these accusations. It would have been better for the Muslim Brotherhood to protect the square as a symbol of the revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is an organized group, should have pushed its youths forward to rid the square of the suspicious characters.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] As we have mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood Group, how do you assess the political performance of the group and its party (Freedom and Justice Party), especially as they are now the majority in Parliament?

[Shahin] The political performance of the Muslim Brotherhood is completely calculated, and is not subject to any risks. The difference between us as revolutionary powers and the Muslim Brotherhood is that we take risks, but the Muslim Brotherhood rein themselves in, and completely link their interest as a party and the cause for which they come out. When we deal with them, we should not forget that we are dealing with a political faction that moves according to well-known plans, and that always calculates the gains and losses, as they do not act at random; this is their right.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why did you reject the medical convoy organized recently by 6 April Movement in Omar Makram Mosque, which was one of the principal hospitals inside Tahrir Square?

[Shahin] I refuse that Omar Makram Mosque enters any political equation. The mosque opened the door to the revolutionaries of the square at the time of the great events, from the beginning of the revolution (in the beginning of 2011) until the events of Muhammad Mahmud [Street] and the street of the Council of Ministers (in the end of 2012). These have been extraordinary circumstances; however, at the time of calmness there is no justification for the mosque to become a side of any political equation, because the mosque primarily is a place of worship. I refuse that some people might say that Omar Makram Mosque has become 6 April Mosque, and if the Muslim Brotherhood Group or any other political faction asked for the same thing, I would refuse it.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] any truth to the rumours that you have been subjected to many threats since you became the preacher of 25 January revolution?

[Shahin] The issue was not restricted to threats, but it went beyond that to four actual assassination attempts. The first attempt was on 3 February 2011, when we found a large explosive package in one of the cupboards of the mosque (Omar Makram Mosque), and the explosives expert, for whose help we asked from the Armed Forces, told us that it was sufficient to blow up the mosque and kill at least 15,000 people in the square! The second time was one day after the first attempt, it was simultaneous with the first million-man demonstration in Tahrir Square after the battle of the camel; on Friday at dawn I found a masked armed man storming the mosque while I was asleep in it; the man was arrested. As for the third attempt, it was on 11 February 2011, which was the Friday on which Mubarak stepped down; I received direct threats from a sensitive security organization warning me against delivering the sermon on that Friday, and I received direct threats that orders were issued to liquidate whoever delivers the Friday sermon on the Friday of stepping down; however, I did not care, and after the end of the sermon, some individuals attacked me in a suspicious way in the midst of the crowds, but the Tahrir Square youths saved me. I also received direct death threats on 27 May 2011, which was the day called the Friday of the second revolution. As for the last time, it was about a week ago when three bullets were fired at me when I was leaving the mosque, but the bullets hit the lamppost. I expect that one of the attempts will succeed, and hence I wrote my will, and I always leave my home as if I am going on my final mission.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you asked for the appointment of special guards from the Ministry of Interior?

[Shahin] I refused this, “Say: ‘Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us [Sura Al-Tawbah, from Verse 51].'” I have seen death with my own eyes during the revolution days in the square, and I have smelt and seen the blood, and hence we no longer are afraid of it. We are not better than the martyrs of the revolution who died. So far, we are potential martyrs.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Talking about the assassination attempts, do you consider the recent assaults to which probable presidential candidate Dr Abdul Munim Abu al-Futuh and two Members of Parliament were exposed recently as mere armed robbery incidents, or were they planned as some people say?

[Shahin] No, of course I consider them as planned incidents. The assaults on Abu al-Futuh, MP Hasan al-Brins, and other political symbols have not surprised; on the contrary, I talked about this more than three months ago, and I said that we were proceeding toward a stage of political assassinations. This scenario has started with distorting the image of the revolution, and then distorting the image of the symbols of the revolution and of anyone who is linked to it, and then casting suspicions and making accusations of treachery. I expect a wave of physical liquidation of the national leaders and symbols during the upcoming few months. This is an extremely grave issue.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, who is behind the operations of assaulting the symbols of the revolution?

[Shahin] I look at the issue as a plan that commenced on 25 January 2011, but time did not help the regime to implement it. In addition to former President Hosni Mubarak, there are other sides that have an interest in liquidating the revolution, such as the United States, Israel, and everyone who understands that if the revolution continues, his turn will come.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] You talk about a US interest in liquidating the revolution; do you think that the issue of financing the foreign civil society institutions is a part of this attempt?

[Shahin] If the US embassy in Cairo, specifically the US Ambassador is proved to be involved in an act of sedition or violence, especially as the ambassador moves a great deal within the Egyptian territories, in addition to what is being said about the case of the foreign financing of the private societies, then we will not welcome her on the soil of Egypt. After the revolution, any relationship between Egypt and any foreign country ought to be based on exchange of interests, nothing more and nothing less. If the United States is proved indeed to be involved, I will join a million-man demonstration in which I call for severing the Egyptian-US relations, and expelling Ambassador Anne Paterson from Cairo.