The most significant outcome of the recent clashes that erupted between the Egyptian authorities and the Muslim Brotherhood is the emergence of the Brothers Without Violence movement, which aims to correct the mistakes committed by Muslim Brotherhood leaders. These mistakes have led to a decline in the popularity of the group as well as to security attacks. In this context, Azzaman interviewed Hussein Abdel Rahman, the media spokesman for the Brothers Without Violence movement, and asked him about his take on the current developments.
Azzaman: When and how was the Brothers Without Violence movement established, and is this movement a substitute for the Muslim Brotherhood?
Abdel Rahman: The Brothers Without Violence movement was born during the events at the Republican Guard headquarters, when Muslim Brotherhood leaders’ incited protesters in front of the headquarters, leading to 53 deaths. This massacre created a desire among some of the group’s youth in Cairo and other governorates to reconsider their path and get rid of the leaders of the militant group who follow Qutbism. The fact is that those leaders made mistakes that led to the decline of the group’s image among the public, and made people perceive it as a terrorist group, especially following the Rabia al-Adawiya sit-in. Yet still, we do not consider ourselves to be a substitute for the group, but we are a corrective movement that emerged from the group. We still believe in the legitimacy of President Mohammed Morsi and are trying to express our opinions in a peaceful manner.
Azzaman: Being among those who participated in the events at the Republican Guard headquarters, who do you think is responsible for the massacre that occurred there?
Abdel Rahman: Both parties share responsibility. The leaders had incited [the protesters] to go to the Republican Guard headquarters and provoked the security forces. In contrast, there was a profusion of violence on the part of the republican guard forces against the demonstrators. Live rounds were used without firing warning shots, which led to the death of 53 people, while the guards only lost one officer.
Azzaman: Does the emergence of the Brothers Without Violence movement mean that the old form of the group will change with the appearance of a new generation of young people, who embrace new ideas that fit the current developments?
Abdel Rahman: I think that this needs at least 10 years, but we have succeeded in some things such as the withdrawal of confidence from the provincial secretaries.
Azzaman: What do you think of the current campaign waged by some political forces in a bid to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from the political scene?
Abdel Rahman: Although the image of the Muslim Brotherhood has been shaken in the street as a result of the recent events, the group should not be excluded because it is an integral part of the fabric of society. The best solution is to prosecute the leaders who are responsible for the acts of violence. As for the random arrests that are collectively made against members of the group, these are unacceptable because they are contrary to the law and a reproduction of the former regime that practiced unlawful arrests.
Azzaman: What is your position on the army’s call for dialogue, knowing that this army resorted to violence?
Abdel Rahman: We do not reject the army’s call, but the Muslim Brotherhood must be prepared for this dialogue to succeed, [and the authorities can do this] by releasing the detainees and correcting the mistakes committed by the military leadership. The military encroached upon the will of the people on June 30 and demanded early presidential elections as well as the abolition of a constitution upon which a referendum was held. Had it not been for these mistakes, there would not have been bloodshed.
Azzaman: What is your position on the Free Brothers’ movement?
Abdel Rahman: The Free Brothers’ movement is a branch of the Brothers Without Violence movement. We fall under the same category, and we are trying to calm the situation and engage in a national dialogue based on certain grounds that require admitting mistakes were made, for this dialogue to succeed.
Azzaman: Based on your participation in the Rabia al-Adawiya sit-in, what is the validity of the government’s charges against protesters of possessing weapons and the claims that non-Egyptian nationals participated in the protest?
Abdel Rahman: There were indeed some heavy weapons and other types of weapons, and people from other nationalities participated in the sit-in based on the fact that they were members of the international Muslim Brotherhood, but there were double standards in dealing with the protesters. The Tahrir protests continued for six months and included attacks on the police. Yet still, no one moved.
Azzaman: Are you in contact with the other movements that are part of the political arena?
Abdel Rahman: Yes, we communicate with Tamarod and some other movements — such as the April 6 movement led by Ahmed Maher — as we have common grounds. But we have reservations about the dialogue with the National Salvation Front, which is calling for our exclusion and for the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood youth, as they call for dialogue. What kind of dialogue are they calling for in such an atmosphere?
Azzaman: What is your position on participating in the presidential election?
Abdel Rahman: We must be realistic. Although we believe in the legitimacy of President Morsi, the practical reality asserts the opposite. Therefore, if we do not deal flexibly with the current reality and if the group insists on violence, then we'll forget everything.
Azzaman: What is the impact of the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, most notably Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, on the work of the group in the next stage?
Abdel Rahman: The arrest of the group's leaders, including the current leader, will not affect the Muslim Brotherhood’s work. According to the dynamics of the group, if the first-row leaders are arrested, their prerogatives are reassigned to the second-row leaders. And each and every one of those leaders has five substitutes. Therefore, the arrest of those leaders will only result in a moral effect.
Azzaman: There are conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mahmoud Ezzat, where is he now? Will his nomination [as interim supreme guide] lead to more extremism as far as the position of the group is concerned?
Abdel Rahman: No one knows where he is and whether he is in Egypt or Gaza — as reported by some media outlets. Ezzat’s position is more extreme because he belongs to the Qutbist current, and he will work during the next phase to confuse the political scene through the use of violence and the continuation of marches and demonstrations.
Azzaman: Former Muslim Brotherhood leader Hamdi Hassan downplayed the importance of the Brothers Without Violence movement in an interview we conducted with him, and questioned the subordination of that movement to the state security apparatus, what is your response?
Abdel Rahman: I would like to recall here what [former Supreme Guide] Badie said during the sit-in at Rabia al-Adawiya square: There are some Muslim Brotherhood youth who must be controlled. We are proud of their affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which follows a moderate Islamist ideology, while some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood renounce their belonging to it.
Azzaman: What is your take on the release of former President Hosni Mubarak?
Abdel Rahman: The current regime is relapsing and resorting to the former one. The current minister of transport is responsible for the train accident that occured in Upper Egypt during Mubarak’s era. There are many remnants of the former regime in the current government, and they will be even more oppressive.
Azzaman: Amid persisting violence in the Sinai against the army and the police, some people are accusing Muslim Brotherhood leaders, mainly Mohamed Beltagy and Ezzat, of being involved in those incidents. Are these claims valid?
Abdel Rahman: The international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood earmarked a sum of $250 million to fund some jihadist movements in the Sinai, like al-Gama'a al-Islamiya and the Salah al-Dine Brigades, and supply them with arms sometimes to conduct acts of violence against the army and the police. Unfortunately, some are accusing Muslim Brotherhood youth of committing these acts, but it is not true. They are innocent of such acts that are caused by some leaders who have adopted the approach of Sayyid Qutb, such as Essam al-Aryan, Safwat Hegazi and Tarek al-Zomor. As for Badie, he did not manage any recent acts; Ezzat is actually the current mastermind of the Muslim Brotherhood.
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