Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- In the wake of the impressive gains achieved by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ’s parliamentary elections and the fears of the Christian community from the resurgence of the Islamic group, the Brotherhood’s supreme guide Mohammed Mahdi Akef called for a national dialogue with leading Coptic figures. Speaking to Asharq al Awsat on Sunday, Akef indicated his willingness to discuss a number of important issued with Egyptian Christian intellectuals, in order to give each side the opportunity to present its views.
Founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al Banna, the Brotherhood was officially banned in 1954. Its fields candidates as independents.
His attempt at appeasement followed remarks by the Coptic scholar Milad Hanna, a few days ago, where he signaled that Christians would pack their bags and leave Egypt if the day the Brotherhood seizes power. Egypt, Hanna surmised, was at a historical crossroads.
Akef told Asharq al Awsat he had yet to agree on an agenda for the proposed dialogue and indicated he had taken part in similar discussions with Christians.
“The cultural, political, religious and humanitarian wind has changed direction. The wind has created a different climate. The Brotherhood’ ascension to power is not a possibility despite not being likely tomorrow” or in the near future, Hanna said.
In an article published in Asharq al Awsat, the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide Mohammad Habib revealed the group is unlikely to form a government. “However, this is how we envisage it”, he wrote.
In Hanna’s opinion, this last sentence indicated the Islamist group was publicizing its future program. In such a case, it was normal and logical for the Copts to be on the alert and distressed, he added.
Remembering decade-old discussions between the two sides, Hanna said the balance of power had shifter dramatically since then.
Nowadays, a dialogue would not be balanced in light of the Brotherhood’s considerable popular support and strength which allow it to form a government, he added. Hanna feared the Brotherhood would adopt this as a strategic concern, especially as they have entered government in other countries and that doing so in Egypt , where the brotherhood was founded in 1928 will become a strategic concern.
Given the differences between the Copts, who are part of Egyptian society, and the Brotherhood which is a political and a religious group, dialogue would be exceedingly difficult, Hanna revealed. “It remains to be seen who will represent the Christian community with the inability of the church or any group to speak in the name of all Copts.” He added that there were differences of opinion and perspectives within Egypt’s Christian community and there was no unifying body to appoint representatives.
Hanna would not rule out taking part in an inter-communal dialogue but said his participation was conditional on who would participate in and the agenda of the meeting.