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Asharq Al-Awsat Interview: The Other Zawahiri | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat-Mohamed al-Zawahri is the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and a founding member of the Salafist Jihadist group in Egypt. He was arrested against the backdrop of the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, spending a total of 14 years in prison. After his release, he left the country, living abroad in numerous countries across the Arab world including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. He was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in 1998 in the “Returnees from Albania” case. Zawahiri returned to Egypt following the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime on 11 February 2011. He was arrested on his return, but acquitted of all charges against him by military tribunal last March. Since his return to Egypt, the other Zawahiri has offered to mediate talks between the Egyptian military and Sinai-based jihadist organization, as well as between the Islamists and the United States, claiming that if anybody can talk his brother-Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri-out of violence, it’s him.

The following is the full text of the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What’s your view of the situation in Egypt on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution?

[Al-Zawahiri] Thankfully the situation is improving in terms of lifting the oppression from the Muslims and in terms of our freedoms and this includes promoting what we view as being the True Religion. However we are still very far from the primary objective of implementing Islamic Sharia law.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the political situation?

[Al-Zawahiri] In our view, the political situation in Egypt is contrary to the laws of God, therefore we are calling for correct and legitimate means, which requires discipline, to be used to implement Islamic Sharia law. From our view, the best way to achieve national reconciliation is via the full implementation of Islamic Sharia law. This is because society has fallen prey to partisanship . . . and this is something that cannot lead to stability. History is full of examples of this, while in eras when Islamic law was implemented non-Muslims lived in harmony under the law of God and history does not recall any cases of non-Muslims becoming fed up with Islamic Sharia law.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your assessment, what is the solution to Egypt’s economic woes?

[Al-Zawahiri] The economic situation in Egypt is not as bad as some people are portraying it. All the signals indicate that prices have decreased following the revolution, while prices were rising at a constant rate during the previous era. In fact we are of the view that prices have remained stable, particularly regarding agricultural products. This is not to mention a rise in the water levels behind the High Dam. This is all because of the lifting of tyranny and poverty and because some called for the implementation of Islamic Sharia law; they deserve the blessings of heaven and earth. So what would happen if we implemented full Sharia law? There can be no doubt that the situation would improve drastically. We can also resolve the economic problems by resorting to Islamic Sharia law and purifying our financial transactions, particularly those that are contrary to Islamic law, such as usury, which is something that the Egyptian economy does not want. If we get rid of the financial transactions forbidden by Islam, such as monopolization and the like, then certainly we will not have any economic problems.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you view the security situation? How can we resolve this to return security and stability to the Egyptian street?

[Al-Zawahiri] We can assess the security situation from two points. First, in terms of the repressive practices and the injustices carried out against the Muslim people. These have stopped, and this is because such practices were a tool to protect the interests of the regime, not the interests of the people. Since the security apparatus was not utilized for its original function-to protect the people’s interests-it deteriorated. Second, in terms of protecting the interests of the people, the least that can be said about this is that this situation is very bad and may continue for some time. This is because the roots of the former regime remain in place to a certain degree and continue to pursue their own interests. Therefore it is natural for them to attempts to harm the people that toppled their leader and removed the bulk of their interests. This anger is expressed in these remnants being behind the chaos and unrest that is happening on the Egyptian street now. Many of their members have committed crimes, so they do not want to see any stability. Therefore the proposed solution to return stability to the Egyptian street once more is via the full implementation of Islamic Sharia law. Here I would like to stress that my intention is to restore security, not tyranny, which the people may view as being comfortable. Therefore the only way to restore security is to implement Islamic Sharia law. These unequivocal texts (of law), which deter all those who contravene them and does not favor one party over another, are the only solution.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the reason behind the general state of poverty in Egypt? What about the lack of basic services? What’s the solution to this?

[Al-Zawahiri] The solution is to confront the rampant corruption of the previous era. This led to the looting of the country’s wealth and the destruction of its economy.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why didn’t you join a political party in the post-revolution period?

[Al-Zawahiri] We are of the view that democracy contravenes the True Religion of Islam, as this places sovereignty outside of God’s hands, and so we reject democracy and all its mechanisms and tools.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think the current conditions in Egypt are suitable for regaining the political momentum that occurred two years ago?

[Al-Zawahiri] If by “momentum” you mean the factors that led to the 25 January revolution, such as injustice, then this will never be like it was in the past.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Have you found suitable employment in Egypt? Has your life reached a point of normalcy following your return to the country after years living aborad?

[Al-Zawahiri] No . . . I have not found employment opportunities despite my high degree of qualification and although I pioneered two new architectural theories. This is due to tightening security regarding myself and my siblings on the part of Islamist ideologues. The majority of us spent more than 15 years without an income, and now they are intimidating people against us to the point that we cannot do anything.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Some people are of the view that Salafist Jihadists and their activities always cause problems for ruling regimes and the international community, particularly the West and the US. Do you agree?

[Al-Zawahiri] This view is inverted; it is the ruling regimes and the international community –particularly the West and the US-that create problems to serve their own interests.