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INTERVIEW
Brotherhood ideas questioned by founder`s brother
By Shaimaa Fayed
February 28, 2012


 
Gamal al-Banna, 88, is a religious writer in Cairo. He has found a broader audience on the Internet for his liberal Islamic views.


CAIRO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Gamal al-Banna`s vision for Egypt would have set him at odds with his elder brother Hassan, the teacher who founded the Muslim Brotherhood as an Islamist movement in 1928 and was assassinated in 1949.


Gamal, Hassan`s last surviving sibling, argues that Egypt today would be best served by a secular leader, and believes that the current mix of politics and religion will eventually fail.


Sitting in his Cairo office surrounded by shelves bulging with books from floor to ceiling, the 91-year-old Islamic scholar said Hassan would hardly recognise the Brotherhood as it is now, poised to enter government.


“There is a very big difference between the Muslim Brotherhood of the 1940s, the time of Hassan al-Banna, and now,” he told Reuters in an interview. “(Hassan) had aspirations but they were not political ...(He espoused) Islam as a way of life.”


Banned under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, the Brotherhood today holds more than 43 percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliament, having won more than any other party in the country`s most democratic election in six decades.


The Brotherhood`s Freedom and Justice Party is calling for a new coalition government that it would lead, bringing it closer to a position of executive power that would have been unthinkable under Mubarak`s rule.


Its success has created concern about its conservative social agenda. Though the Brotherhood, whose public focus has so far been on the economy and political reform, says it has no plans to impose sharia, Islamic law, Egyptians worried about personal freedoms remain unconvinced.


The electoral success of more hardline Salafi groups, which came second to the Brotherhood, has exacerbated those concerns.


“There are genuine fears because the heads of the Brotherhood now and the Salafis who got into parliament, none of them - neither their organizations nor their ideas - reflect that they are people who live in this day and age and understand how a nation can progress,” said Gamal al-Banna.


Gamal, noted for his liberal Islamic views including opposition to the veil for women and to mixing religion with politics, never joined the Muslim Brotherhood, and cut off contact with the group altogether after his brother`s killing.


Over the years, the Brotherhood has become more extreme on the question of women`s rights because of the spread of hardline Wahhabi thought from Saudi Arabia, he said.


Saudi Arabia has turned women into “black ghosts”, he added, referring to the gowns and veils worn by women in the Gulf state.


Many of Gamal al-Banna`s publications, which number in the hundreds, have focused on women`s issues. He has argued that wearing the headscarf is not an Islamic, but a Gulf tradition.


WANTS LIBERAL PRESIDENT


Clean shaven, wearing glasses and casual clothes, he said he was opposed to the merging of politics and religion espoused by the Brotherhood, whose slogan has long been “Islam is the Solution”.


“Any nation founded on religion must fail. This has been true in the Islamic and Christian experience,” he said.


Reflecting on the Brotherhood`s performance in the recent parliamentary elections, Banna said its FJP party had ridden to success on the back of discontent with decades of autocracy rather than public support for its programme.


“Many people who voted for the Brotherhood said: `We tried Socialism, we tried Nasserism, we tried pan-Arabism, so why not try the Brotherhood?`” he said.


Banna believes Egypt would be best served by a liberal president. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, had been the best candidate until he decided to withdraw from the race, he said.


“In the long run, someone like ElBaradei will succeed in Egypt. He was the fittest candidate if not the only one,” the kind of figure around whom the youth protest movement could and should coalesce, Banna said.


The military council that has been governing Egypt since Mubarak was toppled by a mass uprising last year has said it will hand power to the new president at the end of June. An election date has yet to be set.


The reform movement has a long way to go, Banna said, adding “This was a popular uprising that succeeded in destroying a system, but not in building a new one.”


Banna fondly recalled a happy childhood with his two brothers and two sisters in the city of Mahmoudeya near Alexandria.


Their father was a watch mender who spent years penning interpretations of the sayings of Imam Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, the originator of the strict, conservative Hanbali school of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence.


Banna recalled how, as children, Hassan and his friends had played out battles between Muslim and infidel armies. Both he and Hassan had been strongly influenced by their “deep-rooted Islamic heritage”, he said.


Hassan formed the Brotherhood while working as a teacher in the northeastern city of Ismailia in the 1920s, spreading his ideas in cafes and creating branches of the movement across northern Egypt before expanding it into a national organisation.


(Editing by Tom Perry and Tim Pearce)


© 2012 Reuters Limited


Egyptian Leader of Salafi Al-Nur Party: New President must be Acceptable to Army
Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online
Monday, February 27, 2012


Report from Cairo by Muhammad Abdu Hasanayn: “Leader of Salafi Al-Nur Party: `Egypt`s New President must be Acceptable to the Army


Dr Imad al-Din Abd-al-Ghafur, leader of the Salafi Al-Nur party in Egypt, said that he was against a sole criterion for choosing the next president of the Republic, whether his religious commitment or his affiliation to the Salafi current. He stressed in exclusive statements to Al-Sharq al-Awsat that there are many criteria for choosing the president, most important being his political and economic views and his vision for the future of Egypt. He also stressed that he has to be suitable and acceptable to all currents in the State, including the Egyptian Army which he described as an “important and tremendous bloc”.


The presidential elections are slated for the end of next May, according to announcements by the Higher Commission for the Presidential Elections. The new president is to be sworn in at the end of June, as promised by the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF).


Since the July 1952 (army) revolution, Egypt has been ruled by a president springing from the military establishment (the Egyptian army). But SCAF, entrusted with steering the country since the overthrow of former President HUsni Mubarak last February, said that it seeks to hand over the rule to an elected civilian president for the first time in Egypt`s history.


These will be the first presidential elections to be held in Egypt since the revolution of January 25. Some political powers fear that the new president would grant special status to the military establishment and its leaders, keeping them above accountability.


A number of politicians have announced that they will run in the presidential elections. Among them is former Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Musa; former Prime Minister General Ahmad Shafiq; a former leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, Abd-al-Muni`m Abu-al-Futuh, and Salafi Shaykh Salah Abu Ismail. They have already started their electoral campaigns in an unofficial manner.


The Elections Commission said that the nominees would be granted three weeks to submit their papers as of next March 10, which is the date set for opening the door for the nominations. They also have 45 days in which to conduct their electoral campaigning and present their programs.


While the Muslim Brotherhood grouping, the biggest Egyptian political faction at present, has declared its rejection of nominating a presidential candidate from among its members and refused to support any candidate counted as a member of the Islamist current, politicians said that the grouping is looking for a compromise candidate who would be acceptable to SCAF and to all the political forces. Some reports float names of figures including Mansur Hassan, one-time Information Minister, and the current Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi. But Al-Arabi has said that he “will not run under any circumstances”.


Dr Imad al-Din Abd-al-Ghafur`s Salafi Al-Nur party has seized a quarter of the seats in the Egyptian parliament, occupying the second rank after the Brotherhood. He said that it was the right of the supporters of the Salafi current and the religious Egyptian people in general to choose a candidate who belongs to the Islamist current according to their conviction. But he stressed that he was against selection of a president according to only one criterion (that is, religious commitment). “It is not necessary only that the president be a man who performs prayers,” he said. “There are several criteria. It is a condition that the president should hold political and economic views and have a broad vision and good understanding of foreign relations with all world States”.


Many Islamist forces held to be part of the Salafi current have decided to support an Islamist candidate for the elections. There are contacts and negotiations under way among a number of Islamist leaders from outside the Brotherhood grouping to agree on one presidential candidate.


Abd-al-Ghafur said that “the new president must be suitable and acceptable to all the political currents in society. He must also be acceptable for the Egyptian Army as an important and tremendous bloc in society that should not be ignored”.


Abd-al-Ghafur stressed that the support of the Salafi Al-Nur Party for any candidate would give him a very strong opportunity to win in view of its popularity on the street and its strong presence. He said it was now considering all contenders to select a president for the Republic who is suitable and who serves the country`s interests, “especially as the former president (Mubarak), may God forgive him, has emptied the State of its politicians and destroyed its select figures, leaving it an arid desert after him”.


According to the new Constitutional Declaration which was endorsed in a referendum held last March, the term of the president will be limited to four years. He can be re-elected for a second term only.


On his relationship with the West, the leader of the Salafi Al-Nur Party said that there was a widespread impression among many that the relations of the Salafis with the West are “hostile”. He commented: “The truth is the opposite of that mistaken impression.” He said that his party sees that “establishing a balanced relationship with the West in a manner that serves our interests is a very important matter. We cannot make enemies of the other people but must have continuity with them. Anything else would not be acceptable at all”.


Still Abd-al-Ghafur added “we are against being subservient to the West. Submissiveness to the West is part of the past. The Egyptian people have risen against tyranny and despotism and will not accept returning again under any foreign dictates”.


(Description of Source: London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic -- Website of influential London-based pan-Arab Saudi daily; editorial line reflects Saudi official stance. URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/)


© Compiled and distributed by NTIS, US Dept. of Commerce. All rights reserved.


 



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