MB Secretary-General Mahmoud Ezzat In Interview with Ikhwanweb
|Thursday, October 25,2007 11:39|
|By Abdul Moez Mohamed|
MB Secretary-General Interviewed on the Political Party Platform
- Acceptance of pluralist democracy is not a tactic, it’s an MB ideology.
- After approving the party plurality principle, the party became a legitimate means.
- The Muslim Brotherhood’s decision was clear: preparing a party program and not presenting it to the Parties Committee with its current form.
- The party platform was drafted in such a way to show objectives and bases, tackling all political, economic and social sides.
- This program was presented to the MB Executive Office that issued a decision of presenting it to MB administrative offices in all governorates.
- MB Administrative Offices are institutionally wider than MB Shura Council.
- We did not deliberately intend to hide the MB party program from anyone.
- Good intention is needed when handling conflicting statements between MB leaders.
- Qotb’s writings approved, but should be harmonious with the rules of Hudaiby’s “Preachers, Not Judges.”
The Egyptian arena has recently witnessed the so called a war of statements by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) leaders, especially concerning the party program that the group presented to a number of writers and intellectuals for review. However, Some MB leaders complained they had no prior knowledge of the program before it was sent out. As conflicting statements mounted; confusion and concerns among some MB members increased. Some others were wondering if there are backstage rows inside the group, and whether there are those who monopolize the decision making process inside the group. How did the party program come to light?. Has the MB Shura Council approved it?. Will the group change its attitude regarding points that intellectuals and politicians opposed in the party program?.
We raised all these questions and others to Dr. Mahmoud Ezzat, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood group. His answers were good enough to end debates about several of these issues.
Ikhwanweb: First of all, we ask the MB Secretary-General about the conflicting statements recently issued by a number of MB leaders, especially those concerning the MB party program?
Mahmoud Ezzat: When any statement is issued by any MB leader, we first have good intentions among each other, whatever the wording of this statement is. Then, we know the truth of what was issued through asking the one who issued the statement, especially that the group has generally approved rules in such matters. There are issues which are already settled and decided in MB thought. The group sees that any one can speak in such issues because the MB view is settled and well-known.
As for issues which are still under discussion, we prefer not to speak about it until a decision is issued by the group. For example, if there is an intellectual or political issue or any other issue, the MB Executive Office, the body in the group, refers it to competent committees to study it and give. Then these committees give their view about it to the office which accordingly approves it as the official view of the Muslim Brotherhood and so on.
Ikhwanweb: But hasn"t any conflict taken place between powers of, for the example, the Executive Office and the Shura Council, or even between committees and various sections?
Mahmoud Ezzat: A conflict of such a kind never happens. This is because the group sections confer between each other before taking any decision. Take this example, in 2005 the issue of Sayed Qotb"s writings was raised through some statements of a number MB members and in articles written by others and even in personal memoirs of some MB members. They included quotes in which Sayed Qotb accuses of the society of being Jahily (ignorant or pre-Islamic), and that these quotes had an effect on other non-MB groups, making them adopt violence.
When the MB Executive Office discussed this issue, it decided to refer it to the MB Educational Office that is concerned with the group’s thought and MB members who were contemporary to Sayed Qotb, specially those who dealt with him face-to-face. After an elaborate study about the issue, the MB Executive Office agreed and the MB chairman Mohamed Mahdi Akef declared the group’s attitude: that what Sayed Qotb said isn’t a deviation of the MB thought, and that MB was reviewing what Sayed was writing while he was in prison. Late MB chairman, Omar Al-Tilmisany, met Sayed Qotb in Liman Tura prison, and he asked him specific questions and in the end the group saw that Sayed Qotb didn’t adopt a thought other than the group’s and that he believes what Hassan Al Banna said in the Message of Teachings message:" We never label as an unbeliever (kafir) any Muslim who has confessed the two declarations (shahadah) of faith, acts accordingly and performs the obligatory (fard) duties of Islam unless he clearly professes the word of unbelief, refuses to acknowledge a fundamental principle of Islam, denies the purity of the Qur’an, or commits an evident act of unbelief. "
MB chairman Mahdi Akef added that if writings of Sayed Qotb are read by a man who has the principal Islamic knowledge and reason, he will benefit from them. As for those who don"t have these principles, they may deviate from what Sayed Qotb aimed to collaborate.
This MB attitude isn’t a spur of only the era of MB leader, Mahdi Akef. All previous MB chairmen adopted the same attitude. In 1970, I was imprisoned in Qina prison, and Hassan Al Hudaiby- May Allah have mercy on him, sent us while he was jailed in Torah Farm prison, his research-turned- celebrated book "Preachers not Judges". After we studied the research, a question emerged among some MBs: Shall we read books of Sayed Qotb?. I sent this question to Hassan Al-Hudaiby who responded that we read books of Sayed Qotb but we should follow the rules mentioned in the research "Preachers Not Judges".
This attitude and others prove that the group has a clear attitude towards raised issues and it doesn"t issue any view except after a deliberate study and consultation.
Ikhwanweb: This is related to intellectual issues… What about political issues?!
Mahmoud Ezzat: The method is adopted, but the sections discussing these issues are different. For example, in the issue of party plurality, until the current message is issued, a study has been prepared by scholars of Sharia, law and constitution. Also, the MB Executive Office in Egypt sent this issue to a number of clerics all over the Islamic world like sheikh Faisal Moulwi in Lebanon and a number of scholars in sharia in Jordan and other countries.
The response was that the party plurality is like the plurality of schools of Islamic jurisprudence. This phrase quoted by Dr. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. So, this view was adopted by the MB Executive Office and referred it to the group"s Shura Council in Egypt which approved it in principle and gave the MB Executive Office how to specify the means and the suitable time for applying this principle.
20 years old idea
Ikhwanweb: Has the party program faced this mechanism?
Mahmoud Ezzat: As mentioned above, the MB Shura Council prepared the party plurality document approving the principle and left it to the MB Executive Office for implementation. Thus, this idea was first raised in the group more than 20 years ago. As we do not see political and party plurality as just a political tactic to adopt or reject at any time, it’s publicly declared in an official document; because we see this issue as an act of da"wa (missionary) in the first place, not political according to some intellectuals. Our Da"wa (Call) enjoined us to use all means to spread it. So, we thought of the issue of a party.
Ikhwanweb: Does this mean that while the concept of plurality was discussed, the idea of a Muslim Brotherhood party was raised?
Mahmoud Ezzat: When we approved the party plurality principle, the party became a legitimate means. So, we should seek it in the political arena, as it is a field which is adopted inside the group.
Ikhwanweb: But some see that the idea of presenting a party was a rash reaction from the group to the security escalation against the group, reaching its peak with the detention of engineer Khairat Al-Shater, the MB second deputy chairman?
Mahmoud Ezzat: After the Muslim Brotherhood members and leaders were released from prisons in the 1970s, activity and work returned in all social and political fields and more and more Egyptians followed the Muslim Brotherhood. This actually worried the Egyptian regime. Therefore, many politicians and intellectuals from all colors of thought, MB members included, have been detained by the Egyptian regime in 1981. But, In the early 1990s, the regime faced the Muslim Brotherhood with tyranny, and prisons were widely opened for them starting from 1992. Noteworthy, Egyptian prisons always house Muslim Brotherhood members, pursuant to detentions or military referrals. The escalation reached its peak in 1995 when a big number of MB leaders and members of the MB Executive Office were referred to the Military Tribunal to face tough rulings and various prison sentences. Therefore, portraying the declaration of a MB party program as a reaction to the detentions and sweeps is incorrect. The Muslim Brotherhood’s decision was clear: preparing a party program and not presenting it to the Parties Committee with its current form, because it is a committee which is devoted to banning the formation of parties.
Add to that that the party program- or the political program of the group- was a response to demands of many politicians and intellectuals, and even some Muslim Brotherhood members demanded a program that illustrates how "Islam is the solution" in all issues and fields. It is considered a document that explains the thought and methods adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood, and an anticipation of the future of the political action in Egypt. Therefore, we saw that we should draft program to show to the nation. It was drafted in such a way to show objectives and bases and it tackles all political, economic and social sides. We did not target- through this program- politicians or party members only, but we targeted all the nation because we drafted it for all the nation. For this, we presented it to politicians and intellectuals to take their advice about what we wrote without abandoning our constants or principles.
Ikhwanweb: But there are Muslim Brotherhood members who see that the MB Executive Office, and particularly a specific group, was the one that monopolized drafting the program?
Mahmoud Ezzat: This is not right at all. What happened was that the MB chairman tasked a committee with drafting this program. This committee included a number of politicians, lawmen and sharia scholars. The outcome of this committee was presented to the MB Executive Office. Special sessions were held for this purpose inside the office. The office viewed some amendments which were sent to the committee. Then, the committee amended the program and presented it again to the office again after the amendments. A session held again by the executive office members to discuss this amended program. Again, the office had - after these sessions - some suggestions which were sent to the committee that amended the program for the second time. Then, this program was presented to the MB Executive Office that issued a decision of presenting it to MB administrative offices in all governorates. These elected offices include members of the group"s Shura Council in addition to MB leaders and officials in governorates.
This returns us back to your previous question that the MB Shura Council approved- by this way- not the concept of a program, but it approved the program itself. The administrative offices had many objections which were sent again to the committee. Some of them were include and others were useful after technically categorizing them.
Then, a version of the program was issued in its current form which the MB Executive Office approve to send to a number of writers, politicians and intellectuals with a letter to every figure signed by MB chairman Mohamed Mahdi Akef. It was approved that this version is considered a first reading, not a final one. We asked these figures to send us their notes. Some sent their notes directly to the MB Executive Office while others preferred to express their opinion in articles by in newspapers or views in various media outlets. When we finish collecting all notes, we will holding a series of hearings and discussions to make use of these opinions according to the general rule:" The word of wisdom is the stray of the believer, who has the better right to it wherever it may be found".
Presidency of Copts and Women
Ikhwanweb: What are the most prominent criticisms against the program?
Mahmoud Ezzat: After we sent the versions to these figures, a non-Muslim thinker whom we appreciate came to us and told us that during his meetings and discussions with a number of intellectuals and writers before and after presenting the program, they see that the Muslim Brotherhood is still not clear in a number of issues related to exercising of democracy, the attitude towards Copts and some other issues. Accordingly, the office defined 6 points which were clarified in the program:
- The state system: presidential, parliamentary or parliamentary-presidential (the French model)
- The rule of a non-Muslim as a president.
- The rule of women as president.
- The attitude towards international treaties, particularly those with Israel.
- The education gratuity.
- The attitude towards the Egyptian Shura Council, and whether to merge it into the People’s Assembly to become a single chamber or be specialized and that the legislation is taken through two chambers.
These six points were presented to the MB Executive Office which settled 5 of them and left the sixth point unsettled, as political circumstances may change. The decision was as follows:
- Regarding the state system, we chose the French model; namely the parliamentary presidential system which is the most suitable for Egypt for the time being.
-As for the rule of non-Muslims, we saw that they - the Copts - can assume all positions, except presidency. This can be seen in the principle" they have the same rights that we have and have the same duties that we have", this is the rule unanimously approved by Muslim clerics throughout ages.
- The same applies to women. Women can assume all posts except for presidency. This is a consensual matter in Islamic Shari’ah throughout ages.
-As for international treaties, specially Camp David, the Muslim Brotherhood’s attitude towards the treaty hasn’t changed, and that Palestine is not owned by the Palestinian people alone, but it is owned by all the Arab and Muslim World. No one is allowed to concede even single span from it. As for all treaties, we respect them, and Camp David can, like other treaties, be amendment or even cancelled according to the international law.
- Regarding the issue of education gratuity, we saw that this can be allowed till end of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) and the state must provide all requirements for all people all. As for the university stage, the state should give the opportunity to those enjoying an academic superiority and it seeks help from civil society institutions to provide this education for other people through investment companies, Islamic endowments or charities…..etc.
-As for the issue of the Shura Council, we delayed settling it to a more suitable time and according to the change of the political atmosphere.
Council of Senior Clerics
Ikhwanweb: Don’t you see that the Council of Senior Clerics is a copycatting of the Welayat-e faqih (rule of jurists) a term applied in Iran? And that this returns us to the religious state?
Mahmoud Ezzat: This is not acceptable. Just refer to the text in this first reading of the program distributed among intellectuals and politicians. This misconception raised eyebrows of even a considerable number of intellectuals. I think this misconception may be due to the fact that the meaning of " Islamic source of authority" was a bit ambiguous to some intellectuals inside and outside Egypt and also among some foreign journalists, making them think it is incorrect, or that some of them premeditatedly spread the obsession that there is a so called Council of Senior Clerics that will be a guardian over the Legislative Assembly, and that it will be the one that will approve or reject legislations.
Generally speaking, there is a principle which is embraced and approved by all the Egyptian people: that the principles of the Islamic Sharia are the main source for legislation. This is stipulated by the constitution. What was mentioned in the program was just a mechanism that the Legislative Assembly and the president can takes to apply the constitution, through asking a certain organization to give the best sharia view to help them issue a legislation which is in line with the constitution. But the Legislative Assembly is the only body- according to the MB program- that has the right in legislation. What the MB program wanted was that this body is elected from among clerics and that it includes experts in all fields. If the Islamic Research Academy is elected, then the Muslim Brotherhood will never stick to the name of such organization. It will be the same whether this organization is the Islamic Research Institute or an advisory body or the Council of Senior Clerics. As I said, this organization is just a mechanism for applying the constitution.
There is another clarification: that any legislation can be deemed invalid only by the Supreme Constitutional Court, this was also mentioned in the MB program. Therefore, the issue of governance of the jurist has never been mentioned in the Muslim Brotherhood thought or even in all Sunnis thought.
Ikhwanweb: But there is a number of MB leaders who confirmed that they have not been offered the program to see?
Mahmoud Ezzat: As I mentioned above, we give priority to good intentions. It has never happened that any specific person has been excluded. I think that those who said they didn’t read the program may be due to personal circumstances related to them, not due to any attitude against them.
Ikhwanweb: Is there any specific deadline to declare the MB party program in its final version?
Mahmoud Ezzat: We can not set any deadline, because this issue actually depends on the feedback of the politicians and intellectuals to whom we sent the version of the first reading, and to have enough time to read all the feedback and give a final wording of the program. I think this may take several weeks.