Egypt Pulse

Former Brotherhood official hopes new initiative will bridge Egypt's social rifts

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Article Summary
Former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Kamal Halbawi, has launched an initiative to mend the social rift in Egypt. Will it be successful?

CAIRO — Kamal Halbawi has launched an initiative to be added to the series of previous initiatives aimed at bridging the social rift in Egypt post-June 30, 2013. Halbawi is a former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood abroad and a member of the National Council for Human Rights. He left the Brotherhood on March 31, 2012, and later announced his support to the June 30 camp and the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Several similar initiatives were previously launched by political science professors such as Hassan Nafea, Amr Hamzawi and Saad Eddin Ibrahim; judge Tariq al-Bishri; as well head of the Tunisian Ennahda movement Rached Ghannouchi and head of the Strong Egypt Party Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh Abdel.

On April 26, Halbawi announced his intention to launch an initiative for community reconciliation in Egypt that would include all opposition forces, except for the people and groups who have claimed responsibility for terrorist and violent acts, such the Islamic State (IS).

Halbawi plans to form a committee of advisers from Egypt and abroad that will include former Sudanese President Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab, speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq al-Ghanim, former Algerian Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, head of the Sudanese pro-opposition National Umma Party Sadiq al-Mahdi, Palestinian thinker Munir Shafiq, Lebanese political thinker and writer Maan Bashour, president of the National Council for Human Rights Mohamed Fayek, former secretary-general of the Arab League Amr Moussa, a personality chosen by Al-Azhar, and another representative of the Copts.

Halbawi appeared on Egyptian satellite channels on several occasions since July 2013 and talked about the mistakes of the Muslim Brotherhood after the June 30 uprising. He believes that the Muslim Brotherhood was more focused on political work rather than religious advocacy, breaking many of its promises after the 2011 January 25 revolution, mainly not to have a Muslim Brotherhood candidate participate in the presidential race, not abiding by the will of the June 30 people, stressing the legitimacy of ousted President Mohammed Morsi, as well as failing to have a sound reading of the future, which caused it to lose a big part of its popularity among Egyptians.

Halbawi was a member of the 50-member constitution committee that was formed by interim president Adly Mansour to work on the constitutional amendments in 2014. He was also elected to the National Council for Human Rights.

Halbawi was lambasted by media figures close to the regime such as Ahmed Moussa, who went as far as to file a complaint against him before the public prosecutor through lawyer Samir Sabri to have him put on the list of terrorist entities and groups in Egypt.

Halbawi said in a televised statement April 28 from London, where he is receiving medical treatment, that the initiative is not an act of reconciliation between the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization and the Sisi regime. He noted that it is more of a community reconciliation so that people could live in peace and channel their energies toward building the nation and facing its real enemies. He also stressed that the initiative aims to restore calm in the Egyptian street and to open the door for coexistence among the different political parties on the basis of an integrated national partnership.

He added that US President Donald Trump’s statements were a major trigger for this initiative. Halbawi said that he felt outraged as a Muslim Arab citizen listening to Trump, who said about the Gulf states, “They wouldn't last a week. We are protecting them. They have to now step up and pay for what is happening.”

Halbawi noted that the committee of advisers will lay down the general rules and necessary recommendations to reject hatred. The committee will also lobby to provide the appropriate climate for a political settlement in the near future. He stressed that he is keen on taking the necessary steps to make the initiative work through the convening of the committee of advisers as soon as the wave of media criticism is over.

Halbawi wants to follow the example of countries like South Africa, where the apartheid regime came to an end between 1990 and 1994, and post-WWII Germany and the fall of the Nazi Party.

Al-Monitor contacted via phone Sadiq al-Mahdi and Amr Moussa, who are ostensibly members of the committee of advisers. Both men confirmed that they have yet to receive an invitation or even a phone call from Halbawi and that they only heard about the initiative from the media.

Mohamed Anwar el-Sadat, the head of the Reform and Development Party, told Al-Monitor, “Halbawi ought to be praised, not criticized for this initiative, which does not target a single faction but aims to achieve reconciliation across the societal spectrum so that people channel their energy toward serving and promoting their nation.”

Sadat added that this move does not necessitate the formation of a committee of advisers from abroad, stressing, “We hoped that the current political leaderships would call upon all national forces, including the opposition, to start a constructive dialogue.”

Meanwhile, pro-opposition deputy Haitham El-Hariri of the 25/30 opposition alliance told Al-Monitor, “There are no real efforts to achieve reconciliation or transitional justice. Parties seek to make deals that achieve their interests and not that of the nation.”

Hariri called for transitional justice, whereby the Muslim Brotherhood acknowledges all the wrongdoing it had committed against the Egyptian people and the accused elements are tried in fair courts.

Tariq al-Khuli, the secretary of the Foreign Relations Committee in parliament, told Al-Monitor, “The dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood is not political but rather doctrinal. The Brotherhood does not believe in the homeland and seeks to use religion to reach power in all countries of the world in the aim of reviving the Islamic caliphate.”

“Talks of reconciliation no longer exist in Egypt, especially now after the terrorist operations that killed officers of the army and police Aug. 13, 2013. The media has blamed the Brotherhood for many terrorist attacks in Egypt, which IS later claimed responsibility for. The Muslim Brotherhood is perceived now as alien to the fabric of the homeland. The talk about other countries’ experience and drawing analogies with Egypt is a big mistake. Would Germany accept the return of the Nazi Party or South Africa the presence of a group on its land that does not uphold the concept of the homeland?" Khuli said.

Political variables at home and abroad play a major role in political reconciliations or compromises, which has been the case in Egypt for a long time. Former President Anwar Sadat used the Brotherhood to fight against communism and confront the Nasserite movement. Former President Hosni Mubarak followed the open-door policy with the Brotherhood in public work. Under Mubarak, the organization was officially banned but still participated in the elections, to ensure the stability of his rule and to avoid any clashes between the two parties. Today, no reconciliation is happening in the near future unless there is a game-changer that would prompt the conflicting parties to sit at the negotiating table.

Rami Galal is a contributor for Al-Monitor’s Egypt Pulse and works as an investigative reporter for the Rosa el-Youssef website. On Twitter: @ramiglal

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