[Imbabi] Can you stand in presidential elections now? You submitted your nomination papers during the last election from prison.
[Al-Zumur] The question of standing in presidential elections is under consideration and discussion. God help the next president.
[Description of Source: Cairo Rose al-Yusuf in Arabic -- Staunch pro-regime daily that frequently carries a stridently anti-American editorial line; closely connected to the ruling National Democratic Party and the Policies Secretariat specifically, which is headed by Jamal Mubarak, President Mubarak's son.]
Report Notes Prominence of Salafi Influence in Egypt After 25 January Revolution
GMP20110313001012 London Al-Sharq al-Awsat Online in Arabic 13 Mar 11
[Report by Walid Abd-al-Rahman and Muhammad Abduh in Cairo: The State Goes for the Salafi Preachers in the Absence of the Al-Azhar Establishment. The Grand Mufti: I am Prepared to Submit My Resignation, But I Fear Treason Charges]
The Salafi preachers have strongly dominated the Egyptian religious and political scene after the 25 January revolution, and it is has become clear that the state and all its establishments, led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, are seeking the help of top Salafi trend preachers, who have "moderate ideas" and who enjoy great popular acceptance, to convince the people to opt for calm, cooperate with the state, and stop the sit-ins and demonstrations. This change is taking place at a time when the Al-Azhar establishment is witnessing significant divisions and cracks concerning its stand on the current political events, particularly its role in stifling the sectarian sedition between the Christians and the Muslims in the incident of Itfih church. Al-Azhar President Shaykh Ahmad al-Tayib said that "he is prepared to tender his resignation if this is the problem, but he fears charges of treason."
The initiative launched by the Salafi leaders, headed by the Islamic preachers Muhammad Hassan, Dr Safwat Hijazi, and Dr Abdallah Barakat, supported by the army commanders through visiting the village of Sul, in Itfih sub-district to resolve the crisis of Al-Shahidayn Church "Mar Marina and Mar Girgis" to calm down the Muslims and Christians there, has caused a great anger, and the Al-Azhar clerics wondered about the role of the grand imam and his absence from the scene.
The domination of the Salafi preachers on the screens of the official state television and in the main mosques has become clear. Shaykh Muhmmad Hassan, who is considered one of the leaders of the Salafi Group and who enjoys great popularity, appeared on the official television several times though he had been banned from such appearance for years during the rule of the former president. Hassan played a great role in the call for ending the sit-ins and demonstrations by professional groups, something that led some people to give him the title of "the state's religious spokesman." Hassan managed to appear on the state television more than three times since the collapse of the former regime, and dozens of interviews were conducted with him by the state newspapers after he had been banned from appearance in the various types of the official media and had suffered security restrictions concerning his appearance in a number of private satellite channels.
For the first time, Shaykh Hassan delivered the Friday sermon in one of the largest mosques of the Ministry of Awqaf in Cairo, which are Amr Bin-al-As Mosque in Old Cairo, and Al-Nur Mosque in Al-Abasiyah, after he had been banned from doing so. His sermon was carried live on the official television the day before yesterday [ 11 March] in an unprecedented step.
During the conference of the Salafi Front in Al-Mansurah last Friday, the Salafists announced their intention to join politics and participate in the upcoming elections. Shaykh Muhammad Hassan said: "I call on our clerics to reconsider the old beliefs that had been taken for granted over the past years, such as running in the elections for the People's and Shura Councils, for the post of president, [and participation in] the government, and the regime." Hassan said: "We have left the arena for those who cannot speak well about God and His messenger and left the scene for those who are unable to read a verse of the Koran or to remind these masses of one of the hadiths of the messenger of God. The people of knowledge should have been present in this crisis and ordeal among our youths in the Al-Tahrir Square."
The staff members of the Al-Azhar University staged a large demonstration to demand the independence of Al-Azhar and the sacking of Dr Ahmad al-Tayib. On the other hand, the Sufi orders staged a demonstration in support of Al-Azhar president and his stands that call for reforms.
The Coalition of Al-Azhar Preachers called for another demonstration today from Al-Nur Mosque in Al-Abasiyah to the h eadquarters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to hand over the demands of the preachers. Dr Adil Abd-al-Shakur, a preacher at the Ministry of Awqaf, said that "our demands are summed up in the independence of Al-Azhar from the state, choosing Al-Azhar president and all religious leaders through elections and not appointment, merging the Ministry of Awqaf and Dar al-Ifta, and keeping the Awqaf [endowments] as a financial commission to spend on Al-Azhar and those who study in it."
Abd-al-Shakur told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that "the Coalition of Preachers called for amending the Al-Azhar Law, reinstating the Ulema Front, improving the financial conditions of the preachers and setting up a union for them, and respecting the cleric as a symbol and refraining from distorting his picture, particularly in the media."
Abd-al-Shakur expressed belief that "using the help of the Salafi trend in the mosques and the mass media is part of the counter revolution," saying that "these Salafi clerics who appear on the Egyptian television and in the mosques are being misled, regardless of their names."
Abd-al-Shakur pointed out that "seeking the help of the Salafists now and keeping away from the Al-Azhar's ulema is a trend that aims at abandoning specialization and toppling the Egyptian state," and said that Al-Azhar is an international establishment, and only its ulema are able to present the religious texts in accordance with the right framework, and asked the state not to use the assistance of the Salafists and to strengthen Al-Azhar.
He also said that "using the help of the Salafists would raise fears among the West about the control of the Egyptian arena by political Islam," pointing out that the Islamic Group has announced its intention to form a political party, and the same is the case with the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhammadiyah, and the Muslim Brotherhood, which means that the presence of Al-Azhar in the middle of these trends is important so that it becomes "the balance concerning the jurisprudence and Shari'ah rules and issues."
For his part, Dr Ahmad al-Tayib said that "he is prepared to tender his resignation if this is the problem," and said: "I am afraid that this may cause damage to the interests of Al-Azhar and endanger this great establishment, and then I would be accused of treason [for letting this to happen]."
Al-Shar al-Awsat has learned from sources in Al-Azhar that "there is a proposal that is being worked out at present to change the Al-Azhar Law and reinstate the Grand Ulema Commission in a way that allows for electing Al-Azhar president by them and not by the common people so that the rich who can buy the votes would not infiltrate into this post after the voices that calls for sacking Al-Azhar president have became loud."
In an attempt to correct the image, the Sufi orders staged a march from Al-Imam Husayn Mosque in Cairo yesterday in support of the reforming stands of Al-Azhar's president. Al-Azhar's President adviser Dr Abd-al-Dayim Nusayr said that "the march emphasizes the fact that we are in need of this spirit at this difficult stage through which the country is passing and in which there are attempts to highjack it under various pretexts." Egyptian Mufti Dr Ali Jum'ah issued a fatwa on the incident of Iftih church in which he said that "attacking the churches by demolishing or bombing them and terrorizing the defenseless people are something banned in the tolerant Islamic Shari'ah, and that the God's messenger, peace be upon him, considered this an act against the trust of God and His messenger, and that he [Prophet Muhammad] would be the enemy of those who did so on Day of Judgment."
Jum'ah stressed that "the sabotage acts distort the image of Islam in the East and the West and enhances the false image that Islam is a bloodthirsty religion, and give a pretext to the enemies who are lying in wait to interfere unjustly in our internal affairs." The Mufti stre ssed that "committing an aggression against the Egyptian Christians is a violation of the code of citizenship, and a violation against them, and attacking them or harming or terrorizing them --not to speak about shedding their blood or demolishing their churches - are considered a violation of this code and pledge that should be respected."
[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/]
Egyptian Politicians Worried by Islamists Backing of Constitutional Amendments
GMP20110317825001 London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic 17 Mar 11
[Report by Ahmad Rahim in Cairo: Mobilizing the Islamists To Support the Amendments Raises the Apprehensions of Those Who Call for a Civil State]
Mobilizing the Islamists in Egypt to urge the voters to accept the constitutional amendments that will be the subject of a popular referendum on Saturday raises the apprehensions of the political parties and forces that call for the principle of a civil state, particularly after some Islamic movements issued fatwas that voting yes is a "religious duty." One of these fatwas was published in an advertisement on the front page of the semi-official newspaper Al-Ahram yesterday.
A few days before the referendum, the Muslim Brotherhood openly urged its supporters to vote yes on these amendments, which is a noteworthy stand in its openness that took the forms of leaflets that the group is distributing and the calls posted on the internet. This is the same as the position adopted by the Islamic Group and the leaders of the Al-Jihad Group, and the Center and Labor parties, which have Islamic tendencies.
The declared pretext of those is that these amendments open the way for changing the Constitution in an appropriate atmosphere during which the civilians would be in power, and then the army would be devoted to its main mission and would be kept away from practicing politics. However, their leaflets say that the voting would keep Article 2 of the Constitution, which says that "Islam is the religion of the state, and the principles of the Islamic Shari'ah are the main source of legislation."
On the other hand, these amendments are rejected by the political parties and the youth movements that are connected to the 25 January revolution, headed by Al-Wafd, Al-Tajammu [the National Progressive Unionist Grouping Party,] the Nasserite, the Democratic Front, the National Society for Change and its founder the presidential candidate, Dr Muhammad ElBaradei and his rival Amr Musa, the 6 April Movement, and the Coalition of the Revolution's Youth.
These civil forces believe that the amendments "stand as a graft for a constitution that has been brought down d by the revolution." They also fear that these amendments would be a passageway for dictatorship due to the ultimate powers given to the head of state that have not been touched by the amendments. They believe that holding parliamentary elections within two months before giving the chance for the creation of parties and forces by those who participated in the revolution may bring a parliament that would be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the most organized group on the ground, in addition to the remnants of the National Democratic Party, which was in power and which has announced its support for the amendments.
Dr Nabil Abd-al-Fattah, deputy head of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said that "these amendments are unconstitutional because they have come within the same framework that were spoken about by former President Husni Mubarak, who relinquished his powers to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in violation of the Constitution," pointing out that "what happened on 25 January is a revolutionary uprising that has brought down the Constitution. Therefore, there is no room for speaking about freezing the constitution."
He told Al-Hayah that there is "a deal between the Islamists, represented by the Muslim Brotherhood members and the Salafi forces which are allied with the security services and have a large role and movement freedom, the Islamic Group, some members of the Jihadist movement who were recently freed, the ruling forces at present, and some remnants of the former regime, with the aim of holding the parliamentary elections soon to enable the Islamic forces and the remnants of the National Democratic Party to seize government."
He warned that "holding the parliamentary elections before the presidential elections would guarantee that these people would get into parliament because the balances of power in terms of organization is in their interest , and the objective is to return the situation to what it has been in the past and turn around the revolution's demands." He added that "the callers for a civil state, the Copts, and the influential youth forces that launched the uprising against the former regime will not accept changing Egypt into a religious state that is led by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamists, and the remnants of Mubarak's regime."
Abd-al-Fattah asked: "Why has the Center Party, that has Islamic leaning, been quickly licensed? And why the Constitution Amendment Committee included a Muslim Brotherhood member (who is Subhi Salih, the former deputy for the group)? And why the committee chairman (Counselor Tariq al-Bishri) is a supporter of the Islamic ideology, in spite of our respect for him? And why Abbud and Tariq al-Zumur and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders were freed now, and why is this overwhelming presence in the government and private media, which serve in supporting the Muslim Brotherhood?" He concluded by saying that accepting "the constitutional amendments would lead Egypt to become a religious state, while the revolutionaries want it a civil state, and we are going to confront it."
[Description of Source: London Al-Hayah Online in Arabic -- Website of influential Saudi-owned London pan-Arab daily. URL: http://www.daralhayat.com]
Egypt: Dispute Reported among Islamic Group Leaders on Return to Violence
GMP20110318007001 Cairo Al-Shuruq al-Jadid in Arabic 18 Mar 11 p 3
[Report by Muhammad Sa'd Abd-al-Hafiz and Muhammed Khayyal: "Signs of Split in the Islamic Group"]
The Shura Council of Al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah [Islamic Group] has decided to strip Safwat Abd-al-Ghani of his membership in the council and the group. It also decided to suspend Isam Dirbalah and refer him to an investigation.
The Shura Council said in a statement it issued yesterday that "it has been proven with conclusive evidence that a minority in the group was seeking to return to the ideology [that prevailed] prior to the initiative on halting violence and was trying to make the others return to the pre-initiative phase by holding meetings with a number of brothers and inciting them to abandon the concepts of the initiative".
The group's Shura Council dissociated itself from statements made to the media by Shaykh Abbud-al-Zumur, the Shura Council member who was released from prison recently. "Much of what Al-Zumur said does not represent the Islamic Group and contradicts the concepts of the initiative," the statement said.
The Shura Council said that the initiative "was not a deal with the former regime or a going into the orbit of the government but a going into the orbit of the blessed Shari'a". It stressed that the group was not responsible for any one who airs concepts contradicting the initiative's concepts. It emphasized to its members that they should not renege on pledges [made by the group].
The statement said that a committee comprising middle-level leaders would be formed to implement the policies of the current phase which the council would draft for the coming period to prepare for free and fair elections from the base upwards.
Safwat Abd-al-Ghani said after the decision to fire him that talk about returning to the pre-initiative ideology or to violence was without a basis of truth. He said that those who propagate such talk want to frighten public opinion from the group and its cadres "in addition to alienating security authorities against us and dispersing the brothers who have rallied around us".
"Who took the dismissal decision?" Abd-al-Ghani asked. "Is it possible to dismiss one of the members without an investigation? Is it possible that Karam Zuhdi and Najih Ibrahim, who have adopted positions in support of Mubarak against the revolution, should have the [monopoly over the] opinion in a group which comprises a large number of ulemas and cadres who are faithful to their religion and their nation?"
Abd-al-Ghani said that differences among the members of the group should be governed by ethics. He stressed that they will not break away from the group and that they want its general assembly to meet as soon as possible.
Tariq al-Zumur, a member of the group's Shura Council, demanded the holding of a general assembly as soon as possible to elect a Shura Council which would in turn appoint an executive council. He said that Safwat Abd-al-Ghani and Isam Darbala are among the most popular leaders among the group's cadres and members.
Al-Zumur denied that he or his cousin Abbud had attended the Shura Council session which adopted this decision. He said that the group will not return to violence "for the political arena is open to all now and the pre-initiative phase [of violence] is over".
Al-Shuruq learned that the group's Shura Council met again last night without Karam Zuhdi, the council's chief, and Najih Ibrahim, the number two man, to agree on calling for a general assembly meeting which would be organized as soon as possible.
[Description of Source: Cairo Al-Shuruq al-Jadid in Arabic -- Independent pro-reform liberal daily, moderately critical of the government.]
Egypt: Al-Zawahiri's Brother Insists on Jihad, Opposing any Secular Government
GMP20110319007002 Cairo Al-Misri Al-Yawm in Arabic 19 Mar 11 p 11
[Interview with Muhammad al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qa'ida's Ayman al-Zawahiri, Conducted by Munir Adib a few days before Muhammad was Released from Prison: "Muhammad al-Zawahiri: "They Took me to the State Security Investigations Premises after Sayid Imam's Revisions and Tortured me so that I would not Comment on them'"]
It was a mere dream, visiting the area of the Tura prisons to get acquainted with life inside that prison which housed within its walls many famous people. We often wrote about life inside it without entering. Finally, we had this opportunity after lengthy and arduous attempts. But the real dream was not in visiting the area of the prisons but in visiting the maximum-security Al-Aqrab [Scorpion] Prison in which thousands of members from Al-Jihad and the Islamic Group were incarcerated. Some of them were locked up in dungeons for seven years during which no one was allowed to visit them.
After penetrating Al-Aqrab prison, Al-Misri al-Yawm conducted a lengthy interview with Shaykh Muhammad, the brother of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man in Al-Qa'ida organization. Shaykh Muhammad thought he would never leave it except to go the gallows because of his beliefs which he refused to bargain about or compromise on. He told us he was one of those on death row even though he has not been informed of a death sentence being issued against him. He did not know that he would be released from this most vicious of prisons a few hours after we conducted this interview with him.
[Adib] We want you to give us some details about yourself, how you were arrested, and the charges made against you?
[Al-Zawahiri] My name is Muhammad Rabi al-Zawahiri, an architectural engineer. I used to work as a department director in the Islamic Relief Organization in Saudi Arabia. I am now 58 years old. I was hounded by all security bodies in the world, starting with Saudi security bodies in 1994, at the behest of Egyptian security. I fled to Yemen then Sudan, Azerbaijan and the United Arab Emirates until I was arrested. I was not extradited immediately and remained isolated from the world in the Emirates throughout the period of my interrogation during which I was subjected to severe torture. The Emirates then turned me over to Egyptian security which did the same thing. After this I was transferred to the main headquarters of the State Security Investigations [SSI] in Nasr City [Cairo] and then to Al-Aqrab Prison some years ago.
[Adib] What pressures were exerted on you and what was your situation inside the prison?
[Al-Zawahiri] I was subjected to numerous pressures represented in brutal torture and attempts to break my will in order to abandon my convictions. In addition to the torture, I received threats frequently including the threat to carry out the death sentence issued against me, a sentence I was not informed of and did not sign. Perhaps it was issued in absentia by a military court. But they did not want to carry out the sentence for some ulterior motive I do not know. In any event, they tried to intimidate me with this alleged sentence. I asked a district attorney about my position and he asked in great surprise "you do not know your position?" I said I did not. He read the file he had in front of him for half an hour and then told me: You are detained.
[Adib] Were there specific charges made against you?
[Al-Zawahiri] No. Since my arrest I have been in custody of the security bodies which torture me. I was threatened by the SSI before it was dissolved [after the January 25, 2011 revolution] that if I criticized the initiative of Dr Sayid Imam [the ideologue of the Islamic Group] for ending violence, they would carry out the death sentence issued against me.
[Adib] Did the initiative for halting violence adopted by Al-Jihad and the Islamic group find acceptance among you?
[Al-Zawahiri] Of course it did not find acceptance. It has many major violations of Shari'a.
[Adib] But all those who agreed to the initiative were released from prison and tried to act according to their perception and convictions?
[Al-Zawahiri] This is not true. There were individuals who agreed to the initiative for halting violenc e but who were not released from prison, like Abbud and Tariq al-Zumur who remained incarcerated for 10 additional years after serving their sentences. They were imprisoned for three decades and were released only days ago, even though the initiative was announced in 1997.
I was told by the security bodies that I would be released if I agreed to the initiative. But my rejection of that initiative was based on my principles and my religion. For me, rejecting or accepting anything must have religious justifications.
[Adib] Was there a connection between your arrest and your brother?
[Al-Zawahiri] Of course, may Allah keep him firm and safe from harm and evil. A rumor was leaked among people that I had been killed and that my skull was taken to the United States for DNA analysis to identify my brother because he is naturally being pursued by the American Intelligence. Let me tell you that I am in prison now as a hostage held by the security bodies until Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri appears. They were trying to exert pressure on my brother so that he would not carry out more operations.