Brotherhood Should Disclose Sources of Funding

Article Summary
Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany criticizes the Egyptian government for not investigating the sources of funding for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups. 

Dear reader, if you are a doctor or an engineer and you have a clinic or private office, is it appropriate, for example, for you to contact the tax authority by phone at the end of the year and say that you lost your job this year, and thus will not pay taxes? Or does the law require you to submit a list of your expenses and earnings to be reviewed by the tax authority, so it can confirm your earnings and estimate the taxes you owe?

Can the submission of your accounts to the tax authority be considered as a violation of your secrets? Can you reject the right of the tax authority to know how much your business has earned?

The answers to these questions are quite simple: The state has the right to know the business profits of its citizens to estimate and collect their due taxes.

If this is the jurisdiction of the state over professionals who earn money to spend on their children, what about politicians, who work in the public sector, run for parliament, and are selected for top state positions?

Is it not the right and duty of the state to monitor the finances of these politicians, their parties and associations? Is not it the right of the citizen to know the source of funding for that who will become his representative in parliament, or prime minister or president of the republic?

Revealing the sources of financing for parties and politicians is an essential right of the state and its citizens.

In Egypt, a strange situation has emerged after the revolution. All the Egyptian political parties are subject to the supervision of the state, declare their sources of funding and publish their budgets in newspapers, except for the political Islam groups. Officials of these parties refuse to declare their sources of funding, while they spend millions of pounds before our eyes every day.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists are buying hundreds of buildings in the governorates of Egypt with money of an unknown source. It is enough to know that the Muslim Brotherhood owns 1,375 headquarters across Egypt, and that the main Brotherhood headquarters in the Muqattam district of Cairo alone was built at a cost of 30 million Egyptian pounds [$4.7 million].

During the elections, the Brotherhood and Salafists handed out thousands of tons of free food to the poor in order to buy out their votes, and sometimes have subsidized the price of gas in a way that the state is unable to.

There is compelling evidence that we see every day confirming that the budget of the Brotherhood and Salafists is worth hundreds of millions of pounds, but they never say where they obtain these huge amounts of money from.

We have repeatedly asked the Brotherhood and Salafist leaders to disclose their sources of funding, and each time they get angry and respond by directing insults and accusations against us.

If you, as a citizen, demand your right to know the source of funding for the Brotherhood and the Salafists, you would immediately, in their opinion, turn into an immoral anti-Islam secularist, who rejects the law of God and is an agent of the West and of world Zionism.

By refusing to disclose their finances, they are challenging the state and disregarding its laws.

A Brotherhood leader once said: “Yes, we have billions of pounds, and we will not say where we got it from. Our money is nobody’s concern. May you die out of anger."

This logic is not right and is unacceptable. It is not about some minor offense, but a major political crime. The pertinent question is: Is the state oblivious to the funding of the Brotherhood and Salafists, or is it colluding with them?  There are clear indications of the state’s complicity with the Brotherhood.

Before the revolution, Salafist associations used to seek permission from the Ministry of Social Solidarity in order to obtain funding from Gulf figures and associations. However, the ministry often refuses to allow associations to accept funding for security reasons, in the sense that security authorities had discovered that this funding would be employed for political purposes. However, when Mubarak stepped down, the Brotherhood and Salafists forged an alliance with the military council based on mutual benefits. The military leaders were looking for an organized faction to support them and safeguard their privileges, while the Brotherhood and Salafists sought to win a landslide majority in parliament so that they would be able to draft a constitution at their own whim, sidelining the remaining national forces. As a result of this alliance, the council has completely ignored the Brotherhood and Salafists’ sources of funding.

On Feb. 21, 2011, the Ministry of Social Solidarity approved the amount of 296 million Egyptian pounds [$46.3 million], which was provided by the Gulf to a Salafist association as funding. This is a huge amount and is totally inconsistent with the charitable association’s goals. The association’s officials failed to give a viable explanation for this spending. They claimed that they spent 30 million pounds [$4.7 million] for the purposes of orphans and care for the poor. As for the rest of the amount, the association said it was used for “different development purposes,” which is a vague and lame excuse. It is not beyond the wit of any man to realize that theses “different development purposes” suggest support for the Salafist party during the elections.

It must be noted that this huge amount (296 million Egyptian pounds) was provided all at once from known Gulf figures, and the funding continues to this day to this specific Salafist association.

We ought to be more aware of the billions being poured down on the Brotherhood and Salafists. The Egyptian government — during the transitional period — continued to turn a blind eye to this funding, so as not to embarrass the military council’s allies, whether the Brotherhood or the Salafists.

One must note that the Egyptian government has only once attempted to monitor the Brotherhood and Salafists’ sources of funding. It was when former Minister of Justice Mohammed al-Jundi formed a judicial commission to investigate external funding, after the commission revealed the amount of 296 million pounds received by the said Salafist association.

However, the judicial commission has suddenly decided to permanently close the case, while shifting its effort to monitor the funding of civil society organizations. This was when Abdul Moez Ibrahim [the former chief judge at the court of appeals] was referred to criminal court for his involvement in smuggling Americans out of the country. Incidental, Morsi later honored Ibrahim.

Therefore, it is clear that the floodgates are open for enormous funds that are being poured down on the Brotherhood and Salafists from sources that do not want to reveal themselves.

As we all know, they use the money to buy the votes of the needy and the poor. This huge funding has been received with the consent of the military council. Then the Brotherhood came to power and the situation became more complex.

Morsi can by no means order that the funds of the Brotherhood be monitored, given that he belongs to this group and that it is thanks to it that he came to power. We are not accusing anyone of treason, nor are we questioning anyone's patriotism, but the issue is really serious and cannot be tolerated for the following reasons:

First: In all democratic countries, any foreign funds received for political purposes are categorically considered a crime, without exception. Whenever it is proven that politicians received foreign funds for electoral purposes, these figures are directly removed from office and imprisoned. There isn't enough space to list the examples of cases in which officials accused of receiving foreign funds for political purposes were under investigation in democratic countries. This is a political and criminal crime. All democratic countries are aware of the seriousness of such crimes, and we cannot accept that they be committed in Egypt if we want to build a healthy democracy.

Second: The flow of anonymous funds to the Brotherhood and the Salafists undermines an important principle of democracy: equality of opportunities. The mere absence of fraud cannot guarantee fair elections. Fair elections are achieved when all candidates are given a fair chance to present their programs and ideas. Fair elections are achieved when voters choose their candidates freely, away from electoral bribes. They are achieved when voters know the source of funds of each candidate and know how they got them. We cannot accept the results of any election if the Brotherhood and Salafists continue to spend millions coming from unknown sources in order to exploit Egypt's poor and buy their votes. Under such circumstances, even in the absence of fraud, elections can by no means be deemed democratic, because they would not be reflective of the true will of the people. Rather, these elections would be a mere exploitation on the part of the Brotherhood and Salafists of the people's needs, in a bid to access power in any way and at any price.

Third: The use of anonymous sources of funding by Islamist parties undermines and endangers the state’s sovereignty and dignity, because it allows foreign parties to control the course of events in Egypt. In this context, we hope to learn a lesson from Lebanon and remember what has happened to this great country ever since the seventies. Funding flowed from foreign parties to remodel Lebanon — according to the desires of those providing funding — until Lebanon ended up in a civil war. We do not accuse the Brotherhood and Salafists of treason — God forbid — but, with all due respect, we ask: If the Brotherhood and Salafists have legitimate sources of funds, why don't they disclose them and why do they refuse to reveal their budget to the public and subject it to government control? If we assume that funds flow from groups or governments in the Gulf to the Brotherhood and Salafists, are we so naive as to believe that these funding sources are charitable associations? There's an American proverb that goes “If I pay, I say.”

It is logical that groups funding the Brotherhood and Salafists have political objectives that they are keen to achieve in Egypt? If we assume that these funds flow to Islamist groups from Gulf countries, we must be aware that some ruling families in the Gulf have taken a hostile position towards the Egyptian revolution, since it began and to the present time.

These Gulf regimes view the Egyptian revolution as a serious threat to their own survival. They know that if the revolution succeeds in Egypt and establishes a sound democratic state, the Egyptian model will lead to the fall of many of the Gulf regimes. Do you believe, for example, that these Gulf regimes fund Islamist groups to support the revolution, or rather do they pay millions so that Islamists tighten their grip on power, eliminating the danger that the revolution poses to them? 

Disclosing the Brotherhood and Salafists’ funding sources is the inherent obligation and right of the Egyptian state and citizens. If the revolution is maturing and learning from its mistakes, we can’t allow the upcoming parliamentary elections to take place without knowing who spends on whom. Otherwise, the same thing will take place once again in the elections and we will see the Brotherhood and Salafists buying the votes of the poor with money of unknown sources.

Before the Brotherhood and Salafists get angry with us, they need to set an example of integrity and honesty and disclose their funding sources to the public. Before the national forces join any future elections, they must find an answer to this question: What are the Islamists’ funding sources in Egypt?! Brotherhood members and Salafists, where does your money come from?

Democracy is the solution.

This article was translated by Sami-Joe Abboud, Naria Tanoukhi, Joelle el-Khoury and Sahar Ghoussoub.

Found in: democracy

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