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Interview: Muslim Brotherhood’s General Guide Mohammed Badie | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Dr. Mohammed Badie, 69 years old, is the 8th General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, having succeeded Mohammad Mahdi Akef in January 2010. He graduated in veterinary medicine in Cairo in 1965, going on to teach in various Egyptian universities and faculties, and continues to work as a veterinary professor at Beni Suef University on a part-time basis.

Throughout his professional career, Badie has also been a highly active member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and has worked in many of the group’s education and administrative offices. In 1965 he was imprisoned for fifteen years due to his Brotherhood affiliation, and was paroled after serving nine. He was later imprisoned for a further three years in 1999, for a trade union related case.

Asharq al-Awsat met with Mohammed Badie in Heliopolis, Cairo, to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood’s plans for the future of Egypt. The General Guide revealed his assessment of the new Egyptian President, Mohammed Mursi, the extent of the Brotherhood’s involvement in the country’s political affairs, and his take on other regional issues, including the conflict in Syria.

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your view of President Mursi’s recent comments on Syria during the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran? Did these come as a surprise to you? Would you agree that President Mursi, as somebody who came to power following a revolution, should support the revolution in Syria?

[Badie] In reality, the president’s statement reflects the view of the masses of the Arab people, and this is because he is one of them and is not distant from the people. This is the first time that we feel that there is a president who engages with the issues of his people with such transparency, clarity and decisiveness, which God Almighty granted him. To be honest, I was not surprised, because my own knowledge of the President allows me to have great confidence in him and his capabilities which we have only seen a little of until now. God willing, the country and the ummah [Islamic community] will benefit from the President and from his knowledge and capabilities. The President siding with the popular revolution [in Syria] was not a personal decision; rather he was expressing the opinion of the Egyptian people, and indeed the Arab people. He aligned with the people’s choice and demands, because this is a moral and ethical demand, before it is a political one.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the Muslim Brotherhood’s priorities in this post-revolutionary period?

[Badie] We are working on several axes, including internal issues such as education, employing the capable cadre and developing approaches and regulations, as well as external issues, such as dealing with society and effective participation to resolve issues, as well as paying attention to issues of the ummah, and engaging with these, including the Palestinian Cause.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Would you say that your post-revolutionary message differs from the message you promoted prior to the ouster of the Mubarak regime?

[Badie] We want what is best for the people, all people. This is our message, as urged by Islam, and this is something that is fixed and not influenced by internal or external conferences. What is fixed in our message remains the same, whether prior to the revolution or afterwards. We have remained fixed on this message before the revolution, thanks to God Almighty, despite the injustice and oppression that we were subject to, and we pray to God to help us to promote our message as best as possible and that this is accepted.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Could it be said that Egypt is living in an era, and under a state, of the Muslim Brotherhood?

[Badie] We should not run after some media designations that seek to divide, not unite. The objective of these biased terms is to incite hatred and sedition in society. Therefore, we are now living during the early days of the emergence of state based on respecting the constitution and the law; a state of freedom, equality, justice, human rights, respect for mass and individual freedoms and placing general welfare above individual interests. We must not abandon these comprehensive and fixed issues and look for media scarecrows that some people try to promote every now and then, such as the obsession regarding Muslim Brotherhood hegemony. These are fabrications that are shown to be patently false by reality. When these universal values, concepts and rights are present in society, will anybody say that they are “Muslim Brotherhood”? Or rather is this the hoped for and desired society that the revolution was carried out in order to achieve, and which the martyrs sacrificed their lives for?

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What impact has Mursi coming to power in Egypt had on the Brotherhood, particularly as the Muslim Brotherhood’s star is on the rise internationally?

[Badie] The President is now the President of all Egyptians, and he has resigned from all his leadership positions within the Muslim Brotherhood and [Freedom and Justice] party. So we should not try and create obstacles to the march, because we cannot build anything by stimulating such issues. The Brotherhood is present in most parts of the world, and it has been providing for and benefiting citizens for dozens of years prior to the revolutions and it will continue to do so. Everybody, men and women, have been brought up on values and virtues and have served the societies that they are in, even in non-Muslim countries, in accordance with the country’s constitution and law, so what is the issue with doing this in Arab and Islamic countries?! This is because the best people are the most beneficial to others…and God has commanded us to help one another in righteousness and piety, but not in sin and rancor [Surat al-Maeda, Verse 2].

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your own view and impression of President Mursi?

[Badie] The President is a modest, wise, charismatic and God-fearing man. He is a prominent scholar and veteran political who loves his country and ummah. This is just some of what I can say about him thanks to my dealings with him. I have known him well since we worked together at the University of Zagazig more than 30 years ago.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some Western newspaper reports have claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood General Guide is the true ruler of Egypt. Is there any truth to these claims? How many times have you met with President Mursi since he took office?

[Badie] These are statements that do not deserve a response, and they are issued by sick people that want to distort the will of the Egyptian people. President Mursi is the real president of Egypt, and I do not accept interfering in his work whatsoever or even serving as a conduit to the President for anybody. This is what Islam has taught us and what we have been brought up to believe in the school of the Muslim Brotherhood, and indeed this is what we are teaching the new Muslim Brotherhood cadres today. I only met with President Mursi once [following his election], along with a number of other Islamic leaders, to congratulate him after he took office, as well as another meeting with all spectrum of society during the iftar [feast] held by the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Could it be said that President Mursi’s statements are now even being obeyed and respected by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Office, not to mention the office of the General Guide himself?

[Badie] He is now the President of all of Egypt, and we are all behind him and his decisions. You should see the popular support he has received for his appropriate decisions that have been issued recently. These decisions confirm the extent of the President’s communication with the people and his understanding of their problems and issues, as well as his swift desire to resolve these and establish a modern state, which is something that we all desire.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where were the Muslim Brotherhood during the early days of the revolution? What was your view of the popular, protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere? When did the Muslim Brotherhood come to the realization that the Mubarak government would fall?

[Badie] This is a big issue, and talking about this requires many details, however the Guidance Office was in permanent session, and we were monitoring the situation moment-by-moment from the first day of the revolution. We confirmed this with documents issued by the organization every day during the revolution. We were very confident regarding the victory of God Almighty and that the regime had begun to collapse because its injustice and corruption had exceeded all expectations. God Almighty was our only refuge, and all our prayers were for the rescue of our beloved Egypt.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did all the arrests and imprisonments during the era of the Mubarak regime weaken the Brotherhood, or did this only serve to strengthen your resolve?

[Badie] By the grace of God, these trials only served to strengthen the resolve of the Brotherhood, because this is the way of the people of the call. “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe’, and that they will not be tasted? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” [Surat al Ankaboot: Verse 2 – 3]. Whenever it seems that falsehood will overwhelm everything, the victory of God comes to support the oppressed. “And We wished to be Gracious to those who were being depressed in the land, to make them leaders (in Faith) and make them heirs. To establish a firm place for them in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Haman, and their hosts, at their hands, the very things against which they were taking precautions.” [Surat al-Qasas: Verse 5 – 6]. This is the pledge given by our God in His holy book, and we were confident of achieving God’s promise regarding the victory of the faithful whilst meeting the obligations of victory. God almighty issued his majestic call to the oppressed that He will save us, even after a while, and so God’s victory came, and thanks be to God.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are some of the most prominent suggestions that have been made to develop the Muslim Brotherhood and its Shura Council?

[Badie] The need to create new ways for social education and being more open to all segments of society, as well as the importance of demonstrating patience towards those who are hostile and prejudiced against us because they are the victims of dozens of years of the tarnishing of our image, as well as ensuring more opportunities for the participation of youth and women.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] The Muslim Brotherhood is ruled by regulations and rules…however has the organization undergone any self-imposed review or criticism in the same manner as most other Islamist groups on the scene? In other words, what is the Shura Council’s view, that the Brotherhood is the victim or has made mistakes?

[Badie] We are a group made up of people, we fall victim and make mistakes; we do not claim to be infallible. We are in a state of conducting a full and comprehensive assessment at all levels. The Muslim Brotherhood, thanks be to God, is the largest group that carries out such consultations on all levels and we have a very high degree of openness, because we are moving closer to God with our deeds. However some people want to publish all the discussions and debates that take place in closed meetings, and this is something that is not present in any other institution based on organized work.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your position towards Egypt’s Christian community?

[Badie] They are our brothers in the homeland, and we are equal in that we have the same rights and duties. Our relationship with them is excellent on numerous levels, thanks to God, whether in terms of the official level or the popular level. Many Christians have achieved success representing the Freedom and Justice Party; whilst there are many Christians in leadership positions within the party. We influence work and production in our relationship with them in terms of advertising and media. I had many friendly visits with Pope Shenouda III before his death, as well as his successor Archbishop Anba Pachomius, as well as all members of the Church. We have exchanged visits and are building the bridges of trust and understanding to build Egypt following the revolution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Which former Muslim Brotherhood General Guide are you closest to, or has had the greatest impact on your life?

[Badie] They are all good, and I have learnt much from each of them, and I am the same as them. For as God Almighty said “And those who came after them say: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful.’” [Surat Al-Hashr: Verse 10]. The last General Guide was a unique example as for the first time there was – by his choice – a former General Guide, and so I would like to name Mr. Akef here.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you consult with anybody before writing your weekly address?

[Badie] There is a special meeting regarding the weekly address that includes a number of media figures, journalists, Muslim Brotherhood officials and opinion-makers. During this meeting we talk about the most important issues and subjects at all levels, local, regional and international, and at the end of the meeting we decide the weekly address’s subject and content.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Did you personally ever issue a statement saying that the success of the Egyptian revolution is based on avenging the killing of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna? Do you not agree that the revolution succeeded thanks to the calls of the oppressed?

[Badie] The fall of the head of the regime, Hosni Mubarak, occurred on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Imam Hassan al-Banna, and unfortunately some people tried to tarnish our image by promoting such statements. The revolution succeeded thanks to the calls of the oppressed, the blood of the martyrs, the sacrifices of the patient, and everybody coming together to ensure that the general welfare was placed above individual interests, in addition to the leadership of the revolution. These are the most important reasons for the success of the revolution, of course after the grace of God Almighty. Some journalists who are keen to tarnish the image of the Brotherhood have fabricated lies and taken statements out of context, however truth always shines forth, whilst falsehood and lies stutter.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What Quranic verse is closest to your heart? What verse of the Quran do you most often find yourself repeating?

[Badie] Yes, I often repeat the following verse. “Say: “O Allah! Lord of Power (And Rule), Thou givest power to whom Thou pleasest, and Thou strippest off power from whom Thou pleasest: Thou enduest with honour whom Thou pleasest, and Thou bringest low whom Thou pleasest: In Thy hand is all good. Verily, over all things Thou hast power.” [Surat al-Imran: Verse 26]. Whilst I often repeat the following prayer, attributed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him: “O Ever Living, O Self-Subsisting and Supporter of all, by Your mercy I seek assistance, rectify for me all of my affairs and do not leave me to myself, even for the blink of an eye.”

[Asharq Al-Awsat] We are well aware that the Palestinian Cause is the central issue for the Muslim Brotherhood, but where is the Egyptian Brotherhood with regards to the violence taking place in Syria? Are you in contact with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohammed Riad Al-Shaqfa or his deputy Abu Anas?

[Badie] Our position towards the Syrian crisis has been clear since the beginning; we are with the brotherly Syrian people regarding their right to rid themselves of their criminal and murderous leaders. We support all the efforts to help the beloved Syrian people obtain their freedom from the oppressors who are standing on their chest. We pray to God Almighty and are certain of his answer to save the blood of our brothers in Syria. For as Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said “the wiping away of the World means less to Allah than a Believer being killed unjustly.” Whilst God Almighty said “if any one slow a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” [Surat Al-Maeda: Verse 32]

[Asharq Al-Awsat] When you were in prison, did you imagine that people would stay loyal to the Brotherhood group even after long years of imprisonment and expropriation?

[Badie] This hope never died even in the worst moments of severity and cruelty in prison, because we trusted in God’s promise. In prison we preoccupied ourselves with studying the problems of Egypt, how to solve them and how to develop implementation mechanisms, because the Brotherhood, thanks to God, is full of distinctive, professional qualifications, despite the fact that the proposals we had sent to the relevant authorities had been ignored.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion on the dozens of remnants demonstrating in front of the Egyptian Presidential Palace, in what became known as the demonstrations to overthrow the Brotherhood? The demonstrators demanded the removal of the Brotherhood from the arena of political decision-making, and the formation of a serious constituent assembly to draft a constitution.

[Badie] To start with, the right to protest is ensured for everyone as long as the protest comes within the framework of the law and does not infringe upon public or private facilities. Likewise the Brotherhood, as a group, are far removed from the decision-making circle and do not interfere in any way. But there are still those who want to curb the Brotherhood, distance them and exclude them from any decision-making circles, such as ministries or otherwise. In other words, some people want to restore the injustices we faced during the era of the former regime, where we were distanced for many years and deprived from serving Egypt and its people, and Egypt was deprived of our experience. This was expressed by Dr. Aziz Sidqi, the former Prime Minister of Egypt, who said: “We apologize to the people of Egypt whom we deprived of the (Muslim Brotherhood’s) efforts for many years”.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that President Mursi’s appointment of a Christian aide is a real achievement in light of Egypt being ruled by an Islamist for the first time?

[Badie] Of course it is an achievement, not only in him being a Christian, but also because he was not assigned the Coptic file for example, but rather a file pertaining to the Egyptian state and society as a whole, because we are all part of the same fabric. The previous regime was based around one individual with everyone revolving around his orbit in order to achieve his ambitions and aspirations, even if they conflicted with the interests of the country and the people. The former President was keen to designate the people of Egypt into groups, dividing them in order to prevail as we all became preoccupied with each other, but now we have a different model based on pluralism and diversity, and ensuring service to the homeland.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will the Brotherhood govern in a manner of discipline and obedience or will it adopt a more flexible approach, considering that the group has been the largest political force on the street for more than 80 years?

[Badie] The group used to adopt a style of discipline and obedience and this lasted for more than 80 years, but now we are now seeking to govern society with love. This approach is more durable and stronger because we all worship God with our actions as a whole, and it is unreasonable for anyone to be forced to do something. Perhaps it is strange to learn that commitment in the Arabic language is [based] on love, that is the key to commitment and something that we embrace. It is better to have those who believe than those who are tamed.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Are you not angry at those who defected from the Brotherhood or rebelled against the principle of absolute obedience?

[Badie] The Brotherhood is a collective Islamist body; involvement in it is voluntary. We cannot force anyone to continue with us regardless of their own free will. Some believe they can serve Islam outside of the Brotherhood framework, and this is their opinion and they have the freedom to do so, but we extend our hand to everyone, we do not relinquish it to anyone. If there is ever an opportunity to converge viewpoints between conflicting parties then we do not delay because we promote unity not division. Many of those who distanced themselves from us for whatever reason have tasted the bitterness of separation and returned to the arms of their group and their brothers, who have stood by them thick and thin, and prayed to God every morning and night that they are not deprived of their place in paradise. We say to all: “Our Lord! Forgive us, and our brethren who came before us into the Faith, and leave not, in our hearts, rancour (or sense of injury) against those who have believed. Our Lord! Thou art indeed Full of Kindness, Most Merciful” [Surat Al-Hashr: Verse 10].