One hundred days have passed since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi took office, and criticism of his leadership has grown. Morsi has been accused of failing to fulfill promises he made in a 100-day plan at the beginning of his term.
Morsi is accused of trying to Islamize the state, and of being controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he is a member. Against this backdrop of criticism, Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the Brotherhood’s deputy supreme guide, told Azzaman his views on the critics.
Azzaman: How do you evaluate the protests against Morsi, claiming that he failed to achieve the 100-day presidential plan that he talked about in the beginning of his rule?
Bayoumi: Morsi has inherited a heavy legacy, and the 100 days must not be counted starting from the day he took office, but rather from the moment the administrative and executive apparatus were completed and the state’s main positions were cleaned of any corruption that accumulated under the former regime.
Azzaman: [What is your opinion] regarding the legitimacy of the [Shura Coucil] session where they discussed whether or not a decision had been taken to dissolve the Brotherhood, given that this decision was [alleged to have been] taken under Gamal Abdel Nasser’s leadership?
Bayoumi: I've lived through this phase. In January 1954, a commemoration ceremony was held at Cairo University and attended by Abdel Nasser and Abdel Hakim Amer. After that, Abdel Nasser delivered a speech and left, a group of thugs attacked us with white weapons. Officer Kamal Yaacoub, a member of the military police, was among them.
On that day, Abdel Nasser announced the dissolution of the Brotherhood. The decision was verbal, and no other formal decision was taken. Two months later, Abdel Nasser admitted that he was unjust towards us and headed to the headquarters of the supreme guide Hassan al-Hadibi to express his apologies.
On the next day, he visited the grave of Imam Hassan al-Banna [the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood]. However, the tension reappeared in the relationship, after [the Egyptian government] hatched a plot against the Brotherhood and accused them of being behind Abdel Nasser’s assassination and working to overthrow the regime. The Brotherhood’s leaders were incarcerated until the early 1970s, when Anwar Sadat released them and allowed them to return to political activity. They published the Ad-Dawa magazine and decided to resolve the issue by filing a lawsuit.
The Shura Council responded that there was never a decision to dissolve the Brotherhood. However, we do not have a problem with giving this issue a legal framework, under a law that respects civil society, civil associations and institutions. The current law entitles any social affairs officer in any governorate to dissolve any association, which is unacceptable.
Azzaman: What alternatives do you have in case a decision to dissolve the Brotherhood is taken?
Bayoumi: We have legal reasons that allow us to confront this issue. We will defend the Brotherhood’s right to exist until the last moment of our lives.
Azzaman: Some are spreading news regarding contacts and a sort of coordination between the United States and the Muslim Brotherhood. How real is that?
Bayoumi: This is not true at all. We have not meet with any foreign official in the absence of a representative from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. This is proven by the fact that Morsi’s first visit was to China, not to the U.S., and China is considered the U.S.’s primary economic competitor. If we have special ties with the U.S., we would have visited them first.
Azzaman: Why did the Brotherhood withdraw from the vicinity of the U.S. embassy when protests against the film that insulted the Prophet erupted?
Bayoumi: We called on the people to rally in front of mosques to express our opposition to the film. However, we withdrew from the vicinity of the U.S. embassy when we learned that some vandals were present there, especially given that we reject violence and vandalism as a way to express oneself.
Azzaman: How do you see the fear that some people have regarding Morsi’s attempt to Islamize the state?
Bayoumi: These fears are unfounded. Morsi selected a small number of the Brotherhood’s members to serve in the government, the constituent assembly, and as governors. The presidency itself consists of people from all parties. These facts conclusively prove that Morsi doesn’t intend to Islamize state institutions as some people say.
Azzaman: Do you believe that the [Brotherhood] supreme guide and Khairat el-Shater actually control President Morsi’s decisions?
Bayoumi: These statements are unfounded. Morsi is not a weak man, he cannot be told what to do. He is qualified to be in the presidency, which represents all factions. He does not need to consult anyone. However, if he were to consult the Brotherhood, the group’s opinion is not binding, as many are claiming.
A certain vision
Azzaman: Do you disagree with the president’s decisions?
Bayoumi: We do disagree with him over a few things, as we have a certain vision. However, he has the final say in any decision.
Azzaman: There have been rumors that the Brotherhood’s popularity has declined. So do you expect to win a landslide majority in the upcoming elections? And how are you preparing for these elections?
Bayoumi: I do not want to predict the future. We are all making efforts and the Egyptian people are conscious and aware, despite all the hardships they have been through. We respect their vision and appreciation of things.
Azzaman: What do you think of the emergency law that is being prepared now? Is it considered a step backwards?
Bayoumi: Mr. Nijad al-Robhi, from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, informed me about it. However, when we met with advisor Mohammed Makki, we found out that the constitution does actually provide for such a law. Nevertheless, it was the state of emergency that was canceled and not the emergency law itself. The state of emergency will be amended so that the amendment will be in the country’s best interests. There is a difference between a state of emergency and an emergency law.
Azzaman: The government of Hisham Qandil was severely criticized and described as being incompetent. What do you think of this?
Bayoumi: Estimating competencies varies from one person to another. However, we have nothing to do with this problem. We have learned that many competent figures were offered ministerial portfolios, but they turned them down despite all of the efforts of Qandil to persuade them. And let me tell you something: what makes people competent is experience and practice. The people in the government must be given the opportunity to take responsibility and reach the highest levels of performance.
Azzaman: There are fears that some parties, such as the World Bank and Qatar, would take control, especially after Egypt has resorted to them for loans. What do you believe?
Bayoumi: I wish that our country had the necessary means and it was possible to do without any loan. However, this is not the case. In light of the current situation, officials had to resort to loans. When we discussed this matter, we told them we would not accept paying interest. Thus, they decreased interest to 1.1%, in order to cover administrative expenses.
When one is in need, what is forbidden becomes allowed. Now, regarding the Arab states, we have not received any help from them, expect for Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Claims that Qatar is funding the Brotherhood are unfounded. Our funding comes right from our pockets. Previously, the government used to underestimate us, by saying that the Brotherhood numbers about 750,000 people. Even though, if we assumed that such a figure is accurate and we are being paid 100 Egyptian pounds [$16] by each member every month, we would be receiving an income of 7.5 million Egyptian pounds [$1.23 million per month], which is enough to fund our expenses.
Azzaman: What is the nature of the Brotherhood’s relation with the political forces and alliances that have recently emerged on the political arena?
Bayoumi: Following the revolution, we took the initiative and invited the political forces in order to coordinate with them. The first meeting with them was held at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Rhoda. We agreed on a joint electoral list. We first forged a coalition of 40 national forces. Today, there are only 14 forces in this alliance. The strangest thing is some political movements are claiming will have a small share of the pie, which is a cheap method that we totally reject. We believe that this country needs every effort.
However, unfortunately there are some who opposing just for the sake of opposition. We welcome fair competition but not fabrications and lies.
Azzaman: Is it true that the Hamas movement was influencing Morsi to open the Rafah crossing?
Bayoumi: This is not true. We believe in the right of Palestinians to live in safety. Opening the crossing to allow for the transfer of food supplies is their right. I do not agree with those who claim that opening Rafah crossing would prompt Palestinians to occupy the Sinai, because no one is able to do so.
Azzaman: Is it true that the Brotherhood has sent 10,000 fighters to support the Free Syrian Army against Assad’s regime?
Bayoumi: This is not true. We do not have an army. This matter has already been raised and was proven false.