Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- The General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] group, Mahdi Akif launched a scathing attack on Egyptian authorities.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Mahdi Akif said that his group, which occupies one fifth of Parliament’s seats, has been targeted over the past two weeks by raids on bookshops owned by Brotherhood members. Some of them were arrested and books, cameras, and other material were confiscated. The MB leader also said that the State Security police refused to grant the MB permission to hold Ramadan Iftar banquets in a number of hotels, a claim dismissed by sources at the Egyptian Interior Ministry.
Akif stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that that the government deals with the MB as a banned group dismissing its complaints as a bid to “revive its presence on the Egyptian street after it was bared before public opinion and lost its popularity”. He also retorted to critics in the ruling National Democratic Party [NDP] who say that the MB members are “failures and without credibility”.
The MB said yesterday that police raided the home of Al-Sayyid Abdul-Hamid, an MB leader and a former member of parliament for Al-Sharqiya Governorate, and arrested him and 21 other members of the group. It said that the number of MB members arrested over the last two weeks of August had reached more than 40. The charges against them are that they belonged to a “banned group”.
Brotherhood sources in Al-Buhayra Governorate said State Security police raided the bookshops of Al-Yusr and Ghanim in the city of Kafr al-Dawar and seized most of the contents. The Brotherhood Guide sharply criticized the ruling party, the Interior Ministry, and the Egyptian government. He said he had no other explanation for what the MB faced over the past days “except that we are dealing with a regime that, having failed, finds no one in front of it but the Brotherhood who are helpless … the Brothers are people of religion and people of character … the love of the people for them is proven. Over the past two weeks they (security forces) entered all the bookshops that some Brotherhood members own and destroyed them, taking the books and the cameras and other material. Why? I hope this question is directed to the Interior Minister, to the members of the State Security and to the regime, and to President Hosni Mubarak. We are at the beginning of the holy month when people turn to books and to reading”.
He said that raiding those MB bookshops is not legal or constitutional in any way. “These are matters in which we will resort to Allah in His Glory and Majesty,” he said. Concerning the inability of the Brotherhood to obtain approvals for holding Iftar banquets in a number of Cairo hotels, the Guide said “permission has to be obtained from the State Security. The hotels will not allow us to organize any Iftar banquets during Ramadan without first acquiring the permission of the State Security which has refused to allow us to hold Iftar banquets”. In replying to critics in the NPD who say that the Egyptian Constitution and law ban any group that engages in political activity on religious grounds, and that the MB is in contravention of the law by its violation of this explicit ban, Akif said “these are words that are not condoned by law, humanitarian principles or the reality of liberties. What is wrong with the Brotherhood? The popularity of the Brotherhood is on the rise, so do I tell the Brotherhood not to increase in numbers?”
A source at the Information Department of the Egyptian Interior Ministry belittled yesterday the announcement of the Brotherhood about the arrest of about 21 of its members in Al-Sharqiya Governorate in addition to others in Al-Buhayra and other governorates, and the raids on bookshops owned by members of the group. “What the Brotherhood is circulating springs from a desire to draw public opinion to their side,” he said. “Otherwise, where are the books that the police confiscated? Where is the prosecution that is questioning those arrested? Where are those bookshops specifically? They stir media bubbles to get the sympathy of the people in them after they were exposed before public opinion, because they no longer have anything to offer to the people”.
As to whether there were arrests of the former parliamentary deputy for Al-Sharqiya Governorate and the other 20 MB members, the security source said “we have no information on this. Most of what they say is propaganda aimed at showing that they have a presence. That is all. They are trying to revive their activities after their popularity dropped considerably lately”.