[Hutaytah] After all these years and experience, are you affiliated to any specific Islamist tendency?
[Rushdi] No, at this stage I have preserved my status as independent, and during the past years, I have developed my relations with the various Egyptian political and youth powers abroad and at home. Therefore, I still am in the stage of studying the future, and how I can participate politically; of course this happens after my return to Egypt. On the other hand, before my return to Egypt, we were in the Front for the Salvation of Egypt, and we considered ourselves to be a rostrum for the Egyptians abroad, whatever their intellectual, even religious, tendencies might be. The front was open to the various political tendencies. Our website was one of the important ones from the Egyptian opposition, and it used to publish the opinions and ideas of the various national powers. We had a rostrum for the people in Egypt to express themselves and their complaints.
I believe that no political tendency on its own could have fulfilled the change project in the past, or the project to rebuild Egypt and introduce a significant civilized transformation. Such an achievement requires the unity of all efforts, and hence it is imperative to find a ground that is wide enough for establishing some kind of accord or national coalition that will allow pushing forward the revolution in order to fulfill its aims, God willing.
[Hutaytah] Then, what will you do in Egypt?
[Rushdi] Egypt now witnesses a great deal of political vitality and political debate about the future and the democratic transformation process. I certainly am interested in this, and I conduct contacts with some political powers. I have traveled in a tour with the well-known international consultant Mamduh Hamzah (the famous Egyptian political activist). Despite the intellectual differences between us about some political issues, I admire his experience, as he left the air-conditioned offices, and started to go to the provinces, the villages, and the streets, and to mix with people and try to promote his project.
Ultimately, I call on all to go to the street, to travel to all the corners, villages, and cities of Egypt to join the people, and to present their ideas and projects. Egypt now is approaching the parliamentary elections, and is preparing to draft a new constitution, and it also is witnessing the establishment and emergence of a large number of political parties. God willing, there will be a promising future for Egypt in the upcoming stage. The issue is not one of personality as much as it is an issue of participation and contribution to this upcoming transformation.
[Hutaytah] But why have you not joined any of the Islamist tendencies that have started to be active and to establish parties after the fall of the Mubarak's regime?
[Rushdi] I still am observing. Now, I am not interested in joining any of the parties as much as I am interested in protecting the revolution, and in easing the acuteness of the political polarization and divisions among the main political tendencies in Egypt. I am interested in enabling us to fulfill the project of moving to the establishment of the constitutional organizations that Egypt needs. However, personally, I still am in the stage of weightlessness as a result of the long absence and separation. I am trying to find my steps in Egypt, and I am not in a hurry.
[Hutaytah] What do you think of the existing controversy in Egypt about whether it is "constitution first" or "parliamentary elections first?"
[Rushdi] I consider that "elections first" will ensure the deep-rooting of the principle of "constitution first." You cannot draft a new constitution for Egypt without having electoral legitimacy of an elected founding council. You cannot draft the constitution without elections, and the elections will establish for us a founding council that is elected and selected by the Egyptian people. This is because when we say "the constitution first," who will draft the constitution? Will it be an appointed committee; who will be its members; what are their qualifications; and why them and not others? There will be many questions. On the other hand, when I say there will be an elected founding council, this will be the more worthy and more correct, and this is what is compatible with the legitimacy on the basis of which we want the new rule in Egypt to be established.
Therefore, all the apprehensions stirred up by the tendency that is afraid now of the elections are in fact exaggerated, and are incompatible with reality. This is because the reality is that the entire political map in Egypt will change. To assume that the Islamist tendency has a majority and has an advantage is wrong. More than 18 million Egyptian citizens participated in the referendum on the constitutional amendments on 19 March 2011; this is an unprecedented number that has never before participated in any elections. Thus, the electoral bloc is a virgin one that will vote freely for the first time, and no one can predict its direction.
Therefore, everybody now has to do the same as Dr Mamduh Hamzah did; we have to leave the air-conditioned offices, and to stop complaining. This is because we ought to deal with the Egyptian people as they are now. We cannot export this people to China and import another people from Korea. Those who criticize the people, or try to disparage the abilities of the people to choose correctly are committing something very dangerous, because ultimately this is against the democracy for which they used to call in the past.
[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/]
Egypt: Emerging Players in Political Transition as of 3 Mar
FEA20110303015176 - OSC Feature - Egypt -- OSC Report 03 Mar 11
As of 3 March,[a] OSC has observed efforts by Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders to explain their political vision in light of plans to form an officially sanctioned party, while MB reformist youth have threatened to break off from the group. Meanwhile, several groups from across the political spectrum have announced their intention to form political parties. The Salafi Islamic Group (IG) is debating political engagement, while the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) is discussing electing new leadership. A number of unofficial political coalitions are continuing to demand that Egyptian military leaders enact additional reforms.
MB leaders[b] have publicly maintained the group's intention to participate in a competitive political landscape by establishing an officially sanctioned "Freedom and Justice" Party.
MB media spokesman and coordinator for forming "Freedom and Justice," Dr Sa'ad al-Katatni, explained that while the party's vision will be based on Shari'ah (Islamic law), it will support the Constitution currently under review and would "not enforce the Islamic penal code." Al-Katatni further stated that "we do not call for a religious state, but a civil one" encompassing many political viewpoints and asserted that the party will act independently from the MB (Al-Misri al-Yawm, 26 February).[ 1] Meanwhile, Khayrat al-Shatir, who had reportedly been named party leader, was recently released from prison (MENA Online, 2 March).[ 2]
Unlike some youth and opposition groups who have called for the dissolution of the NDP, Al-Katatni stated that he does "not mind its existence" but affirmed that the NDP "must compete with the others on a democratic basis." Regarding Al-Wasat, the reformist MB offshoot party, Katatni said that "the political arena has room for more parties even if they carry the same Islamic terms of reference" and hinted at the possibility of cooperation between the two parties (Al-Misri al-Yawm, 26 February).[ 3]
Reformist[c] youth within the MB, meanwhile, are planning to protest against the group's leadership and threatening to join the MB offshoot Al-Wasat Party.
According to independent daily Al-Misri al-Yawm, reformist MB youth have called for a 17 March "revolution" to push for dissolving current MB leadership structures and for internal elections under the supervision of former General Guide Muhammad Mahdi Akif (28 February).[ 4] The daily also reported that the youth are considering joining the centrist Al-Wasat Party or founding their own breakaway "Reform Party," should negotiations with Al-Wasat fail (24 February).[ 5] MB Media Spokesman Dr Essam al-Erian, however, denied the existence of an internal revolution, stating that the media is "twisting the facts" (Ikhwanonline, 3 March).[ 6]
Several other groups -- including youth, leftists, and Salafists -- are either considering or are in the planning stages of forming parties, while the NDP is discussing electing new party leaders.
The Salafi IG, which has traditionally eschewed politics, is reportedly debating whether to form a party. IG leader Dr Najih Ibrahim announced plans to establish a party (Al-Wafd, 24 February),[ 7] though a member of the IG's Shura Council, Asim Abd-al-Majid, later asserted that a majority of the group advocates focusing on da'wa (religious outreach) instead of political activity (Al-Ahram, 27 February).[ 8]
Current Secretary General and Secretary of Organization in the NDP Muhammad Rajab indicated that the party might elect a new chairman and other leaders during its next general conference at a yet unspecified date (Al-Yawm al-Sabi, 27 February).[ 9] Former MP Tala'at al-Sadat -- nephew of former President Anwar al-Sadat and outspoken critic of Mubarak-era policies -- has reportedly expressed interest in the chairmanship (Al-Shuruq, 1 March).[ 10]
A group of youth has announced their intention to found a political party called "Youth of Liberation" under the presidency of editor in chief of the independent weekly Sawt al-Ummah, Wa'il al-Ibrashi, who was a noted critic of the Mubarak regime (Al-Misri al-Yawm, 1 March).[ 11] According to al-Ibrashi, the party will seek to "ensure that the youth revolution continues" and will adhere to the "mores of Tahrir Square." The group claims to have 2,500 members (Al-Dustur, 28 February).[ 12]
Unidentified leftist groups have reportedly set up a preparatory committee -- headed by Ibrahim al-Isawi, an Egyptian writer who has focused on economic development- - aimed at forming a unified leftist political party. Al-Isawi stated the party will identify with the economic and social struggles of the masses (MENA Online, 26 February).[ 13]
Unofficial coalitions continue to press for reforms from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which has met a key demand of the youth by appointing a new prime minister.
In a meeting with the Coalition of the Revolution's Youth on 27 February, the SCAF announced its intention to hold a constitutional referendum in April, parliamentary elections in June, and presidential elections in August. The coalition expressed concern over the short timeframe for elections (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, 1 March)[ 14] and issued a timetable of additional reforms they are demanding (Ahram Online, 1 March).[ 15]
State-controlled Channel One television later reported that the SCAF had accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq and replaced him with Transportation Minister Isam Sharaf (3 March).[ 16] The same channel reported that protesters in Tahrir Square reacted with "jubilation" and "expressed confidence" in Sharaf (3 March).[ 17]
To view a PDF version, click here (.pdf).
[a] This report is the second in a planned weekly series on emerging Egyptian political actors. For the first report, see the 23 February OSC Report, Egypt -- Key Political Players Emerging Out of 25 Jan Revolution (GMP20110224431001 ).
[b] To view a chart of the MB leaders, see the 11 May 2010 OSC Media Aid, Egypt -- Chart of Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau (GMF20100511425001 ).
[c] For discussion of internal divisions and dissent within the Muslim Brotherhood, see the 22 January 2010 OSC Analysis, Scrutiny of Muslim Brotherhood Elections Highlights Dissension (GMP20091222615004 ).
[ 1] [OSC | Newspaper Article | OSC ID: GMP20110226010001 | 26 February 2011 | | Egypt: Interview With Leading MB Member Al-Katatni on New Political Party | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Misri al-Yawm in Arabic Respected independent pro-reform daily focusing on domestic political issues; largest-circulation independent publication, especially widely read among youth.]
[ 2] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110302950057 | 2 March 2011 | | Egypt: Release of Two Muslim Brotherhood Senior Leaders | | (U) | (U) | Cairo MENA Online in English -- Government news agency; URL: http://www.mena.org.eg]
[ 3] [OSC | Newspaper Article | OSC ID: GMP20110226010001 | 26 February 2011 | | Egypt: Interview With Leading MB Member Al-Katatni on New Political Party | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Misri al-Yawm in Arabic Respected independent pro-reform daily focusing on domestic political issues; largest-circulation independent publication, especially widely read among youth.]
[ 4] [Open Source (Not OSC) | Newspaper Article | 28 February 2011 | | MB Youth Set 17 March for Revolution Against the Guidance Bureau and Shura Council | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Misri al-Yawm Online in Arabic - Website of respected independent pro-reform daily focusing on domestic political issues; largest-circulation independent publication, especially widely read among youth] link to Article URL: http://www.almasry-alyoum.com/article2.aspx?ArticleID=289198&IssueID=2060
[ 5] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110224966162 | 24 February 2011 | | Al-Arian: Brotherhood&'s Freedom and Justice Party to be based on Islamic Law | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Masry Al-Youm Online in English -- English language version of Al-Misri al-Yawm, Egypt's respected independent pro-reform daily that focuses on domestic political issues; largest-circulation independent publication, especially widely read among youth; URL: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en]
[ 6] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110303035004 | 4 March 2011 | | Egypt: MB Media Spokesman Replies to What He Calls As Press Allegations | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Ikhwanonline in Arabic -- Official website of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, providing the main source of news on the group; generally critical of the government and sympathetic to other opposition parties; URL: http://www.ikhwanonline.com]
[ 7] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110224007005 | 24 February 2011 | | Report Warns Islamist Groups Attempting to Found 6 Political Parties in Egypt | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Wafd in Arabic -- Opposition New Wafd Party's daily newspaper; usually highlights statements of the party's leader and criticizes the government.]
[ 8] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 27 February 2011 | | Islamic Group Leadership Confirms Majority of Its Members' Rejection of Establishing a Party | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Ahram in Arabic -- State-controlled daily newspaper of record, reportedly Egypt's highest circulation daily; Al-Ahram controls the distribution of all other newspapers, state-run and opposition alike.] http://www.ahram.org.eg/456/2011/02/27/12/64782.aspx
[ 9] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 27 February 2011 | | Rajab: Chairmanship of the NDP After Mubarak Under Study | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Yawm al-Sabi Online in Arabic -- Website of independent liberal weekly] http://www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=359360&SecID=65&IssueID=0
[ 10] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 1 March 2011 | | Arabic Newspapers: Youth of the Revolution Await a Timetable for Implementing Their Demands... Divisions Within the Muslim Brotherhood | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Shuruq al-Jadid in Arabic-- Independent pro-reform liberal daily, moderately critical of the government] http://www.shorouknews.com/contentdata.aspx?id=399508
[ 11] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 1 March 2011 | | Announcement of the Establishment of "Youth of Liberation" and Selection of Al-Ibrashi as Its President | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Misri al-Yawm in Arabic - Respected independent pro-reform daily focusing on domestic political issues; largest-circulation independent publication, especially widely read among youth;] Link to URL: http://www.almasry-alyoum.com/article2.aspx?ArticleID=289272&IssueID=2061
[ 12] [Open Source (Not OSC) | | | 28 February 2011 | | Wa'il al-Ibrashi Establishes a Party Under the Name "Youth of Liberation" | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Al-Dustur Online in Arabic --Website of independent daily opposed to the regime and specifically the Mubarak family;] link to URL: http://dostor.org/politics/egypt/11/february/28/37199
[ 13] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110226950033 | 26 February 2011 | | New Political Party To Be Launched In Egypt | | (U) | (U) | Cairo MENA Online in English -- Government news agency; URL: http://www.mena.org.eg]
[ 14] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110301825003 | 1 March 2011 | | Egyptian Revolutions Leaders Cited on Positive Talks With Military Council | | (U) | (U) | 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/]
[ 15] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110302462001 | 1 March 2011 | | January 25 Youth Coalition Issues Timetable of Demands | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Ahram Online in English -- Beta website published by state-controlled Al-Ahram Establishment, launched on 26 November 2010; URL: http://english.ahram.org.eg/]
[ 16] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110303950004 | 3 March 2011 | | FYI -- Egyptian TV Reports Prime Minister's Resignation Accepted | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Channel 1 TV in Arabic -- state-run television]
[ 17] [OSC | | OSC ID: GMP20110303950017 | 3 March 2011 | | Egyptian Protesters Satisfied With Shafiq's Resignation, New Prime Minister | | (U) | (U) | Cairo Channel 1 TV in Arabic -- state-run television]
Egypt: Islamic Group Leaders on Investors Offer of Satellite Channel, Newspaper
GMP20110718825009 London Al-Quds al-Arabi Online in Arabic 18 Jul 11
[Report by Muhammad Nasr Karum, from Cairo: "Leading Members of the Islamic Group in Egypt: Investors Have Made Offers to Establish a Satellite Channel and to Publish a Newspaper on Condition that They Do Not Interfere in the Editorial Policy"]
The Islamic Group [IG] has fought an armed, violent, and fierce battle against the Mubarak regime in the nineties that inflicted major losses and damage on it, from the arrest of dozens of leading members for long years, to the death of nearly 3,000, be it through death sentences, through torture in State Security headquarters and within the detention camps, or during the confrontations with the police forces in the streets and squares. All this has led to bleeding the IG materially and morally,
It is well known that most of the IG members were poor and simple people, and anyone of them who had a capital, lost it during the conflict period as a result of being in detention camp or through the various State Security means of destruction. After they were released from prison following the activation of the cease-of-violence initiative, they were full of illnesses, and their situation became worse than it was before entering the detention camps.
It is strange that we have heard statements by some IG leaders in which they announce that they have adopted a decision to establish a satellite channel and a newspaper, in addition to the establishment of the Building and Development Party.
It is well known that the establishment of a satellite channel and a newspaper require millions of pounds; therefore, how can a group that does not own even thousands of pounds do this? What are the sources of finance on which it will rely? Would it not be more worthy to look after the poor of the group, to improve their financial situation, and to raise their living standard, than to establish such projects? This is what we asked the leaders of the group.
IG Shura Council Member Shaykh Asim Abd-al-Majid says:
[Abd-al-Majid] Our sources of finance are the donations of the IG members, and we will collect the entire capital from them. Also there are some investors who made us the offer to set up a joint-stock company to establish a satellite channel and a newspaper, provided that the IG undertakes their technical management and intellectual substance, without interference from them. They want to do this as an investment project that will bring them profits. The two issues are under study and examination, and we will select the best of them.
[Karum] With regard to the businessmen who proposed to you the establishment of a satellite channel and a newspaper, what are their intellectual and political tendencies that make them finance projects for the IG?
[Abd-al-Majid] They have not been precisely identified, because there are a number of projects that have been offered to us, and we are studying them. However, we have clear conditions to approve of these projects, namely that there will be not interference in the intellectual direction of the channel or the newspaper, or in the technical management of the project. We insist on this whether these businessmen have Islamist tendencies or their idea is purely for investment purposes, this does not matter to us.
[Karum] Did the businessmen offer to finance you, or did you pursue them?
[Abd-al-Majid] They are the ones who offered us the project, because they expect our channel and newspaper to succeed. The investor has a sense through which he can identify where and how to invest his money; they consider that this project will be successful.
[Karum] Do they have other aims behind this?
[Abd-al-Majid] If we knew that they had other aims, we would certainly refuse this.
[Karum] Do you not think that thousands of IG members are in a very bad financial situation, and it is more worthy to help them and improve their situation, and then you can think of such projects?
[Abd-al-Majid] This is one way, and that is another way. If we establish the channel as an investment project, it will not exhaust the funds of the IG; on the contrary, it will be a source of income for many of our sons, because many of them will be employed in this project.
[Karum] With regard to the IG sources of finance before the cease-of-violence initiative, can you reveal them? Is it possible to resort to these sources for financing your own projects, especially as the military operations you undertook used to cost millions?
[Abd-al-Majid] I think that the IG brethren outside Egypt were the ones responsible for spending on these operations, because they were large in numbers, and they were spread over many countries. There might have been donations, but I cannot state this categorically. This is a page that has been closed with all its weapons, funds, operations, plans, and aims, and I do not think that we will return to any part of it even if the sources of finance become available. We have announced in a conference we convened that the IG rejects any form of foreign finance, and the donations we will accept are only the donations made by the sons of the group in person, and the donations of those sympathetic to the Islamist idea within Egypt. We have announced this repeatedly.
[Karum] What about the accusations leveled at the IG that it used to receive financial support from some countries during your conflict with the Mubarak Regime?
[Abd-al-Majid] Let anyone who has a proof present it. If we used to receive financial support from some countries, how can you explain the existence of thousands of families that are starving, and cannot find anything to eat because their breadwinners were in prison? This is well known to all. Had we been receiving financial support, at least we would have fed them.
[Karum] Even the military wing, were not some intelligence organizations supporting it?
[Abd-al-Majid] All these were rumors and a psychological war waged by Husni Mubarak against us. He claimed that we were taking money from foreign countries, and we used to give the youths a fistful of pounds to undertake suicide operations; this is all nonsense, and completely unfounded.