Muslim Brotherhood Spokesman Arrested in Cairo; Here’s What He Told Margaret Warner 9 Days Ago
On Sept. 8, Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad spoke with NewsHour Senior Foreign Correspondent Margaret Warner, who was in Cairo covering that country’s troubled and often violent political scene.
“I’m a wanted man,” he told her. The interview had to be conducted via Skype, because El-Haddad said he was “being chased around by the police.” “I need to secure my communication,” he said.
On Tuesday, just nine days after he spoke with Warner, El-Haddad was arrested in a Cairo apartment. The state run newspaper al-Ahram said that he stands accused of “inciting violence and murder” and has been transferred to Tora prison in Cairo.
You can watch the story that features el-Haddad’s interview here.
Below is a transcript of the entire conversation between Warner and el-Haddad.
Margaret Warner: Gehad El-Haddad thank you for joining us. Let’s start with the way we’re talking we are talking via Skype why is that? What does it say about the climate in Egypt right now for members of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Gehad El-Haddad: Well it’s the climate for anyone that’s fighting against the coup I think it’s quite known that the cycle of oppression and crackdown has expanded beyond the Muslim Brotherhood to include many other segments of the revolution, the old groups of Egypt. But what it says is simple: I’m a wanted man now for saying my opinion and for standing politically in opposition to the coup. I’m being chased around by the police so I need to secure all the connections that I do and I need to secure my communication even. I haven’t seen my family in over a month, all my kids, I can’t communicate with them because they as well are being followed it’s a police state with everything that comes with it.
Margaret Warner: And are most of your leaders now either in hiding as you are or arrested detained?
Gehad El-Haddad: The biggest number of our leaders have been killed in Raba’a. The second biggest group is detained and many others are in different places but it doesn’t really affect the grassroots connected organization as the Muslim Brotherhood that much. It becomes more decentralized as it was under Mubarak although this is much worse of course.
Margaret Warner: Now the government officials say they have only detained Brotherhood people or arrested Brotherhood people on suspicion of engaging in violence, having used violence or incited to violence. What’s your comment to that?
Gehad El-Haddad: (We) had a 24-hour 24/7 television station in Raba’a (Square) broadcasting everything that going on it. So there is no evidence to substantiate that. Not even until now. Most of them were being arrested arbitrarily. There is no courts, there is no judgments. It’s all made up. It’s the function of the police state, they would commit crimes, find someone to stick them to, the media would sell it, and the judge would buy it, and it’s a full-fledged system to oppress any other opinion.
Margaret Warner: So were there any guns or weapons by people in Raba’a in the encampment or the other encampment either of the two?
Gehad El-Haddad: I was in Raba’a all the time. I was camped there with the protesters; at any time when you go (in) it had about six or seven different entrances. Each one of them had three checkpoints. One would check your ID, one would check your, um, frisk you basically, and a third would check your luggage or anything you had with you. If someone came in with a weapon–licensed or otherwise–they would be asked to either leave it outside or they would be denied entry. If someone was caught inside even with something as simple as a knife, unless he’s part of the kitchen crew he would be…escorted outside, sometimes by force escorted outside, because we made sure as much as we could–of course it’s in an open sit in–that nothing of the sort was inside. If there was anything of such sort we wouldn’t have been slaughtered in such masses of thousands in a span of twelve hours and all the footage has now been uploaded to YouTube and so many other social networks with nothing showing in them but people with their bare hands standing in front of live bullets for something they believe in, for their freedom.
Margaret Warner: Now even human rights workers we’ve talked to say there was incitement to violence — and this was from someone who was actually there — from the stage, or the podium against Christians, against the opposition. Did that get out of hand? Was there incitement to violence? I’m not saying that any of that is a justification for what happened, but I’m just trying to drill down on these various charges that the government’s making.
Gehad El-Haddad: Certainly in every society there is always these odd outliers on both ends of the spectrum, that their dialect would always tip to the extremes. At the end of the day, in order for you to dilute that or control it — to even bring to the middle — the point is to push them towards the middle by including them into the process so that their speech, their dialect becomes scrutinized by public opinion. What happened in Raba’a was, it was an open stage, everyone who would come in represented and they would asked to speak and would be allowed to speak. I can only speak for the Muslim Brotherhood and the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and we control that dialect quite enough. And we actually directed it towards non-violence and towards inclusion. Some did sway off course from other factions, but we can’t be held accountable to them. In the context of a state of law that does not until this day separate between what type of hate speeches and what type of controls need to be put in place with their legal context it becomes a judgmental element. And once it’s in the hands of the state it becomes a very strong tool of oppression. They blame someone for having hate speech. I mean we are having dialog now (that is) now more fascist: like if you have an MB neighbor “report him and take his belongings; if you find someone that’s belonging to the MB in your family, you should discredit them.” It’s so… it’s becoming much of a fascist state under this military coup.
Margaret Warner: So you think it’s becoming a fascist state? What do you think the security services aim is here when it comes to the Brotherhood?
Gehad El-Haddad: I don’t think the security services has an aim of its own. It’s a tool of the state. And like all tools of the state, they represent the old regime in a large extent and the center piece of course is the coup leaders. These aren’t a group of individuals holding this together. The aim of all of them is that, in scene as big as Egypt, there are only two organized players on that scene. One is the Muslim Brotherhood and the other one is the old state and the army in the middle of it. It was always a choice between the old and the new and the new was represented by none other than the Muslim Brotherhood not because they were that good, but because everyone else was too small to take up a fight with the old regime, or not as organized as them. So in the context of politics these were the only two players on the scene so one of them had to take the other out and that’s exactly what the military is trying to do. They are trying to wipe the existence, trying to decapitate the Muslim Brotherhood, and they can’t do that. It’s an idea! You can’t kill an idea and it’s very decent population with millions of people belonging to the idea. And they are trying to destroy it so that it doesn’t come up again to challenge them as it did in January 25th. I don’t think it will work. I think that sooner or later the anti coup movement would win this, and seeing more people join the rallies from different segments of society, more diversity and more people are starting to realize how dangerous it is for a military coup to take hold of Egypt, and I’m not just talking about regionally-dangerous. I’m talking about worldwide dangerous, for the stability for the security of the region and the country itself.
Margaret Warner: Then how do you explain that you lost — you said there were really only two forces: the old state and the Brotherhood — but you did lose the street, you lost the revolutionary youth whom you had stood with during the January 25th revolution. Many of whom say they voted for candidate Morsi, and became alienated and felt you were too exclusive and felt that you, the Brotherhood, became authoritarian. That President Morsi did. Did you lose that group, and if so why?
Gehad El-Haddad: There is a truth to that. I don’t want to generalize to say that we lost the entire group but we’ve certainly lost a substantial portion of the revolutionary youth groups. But I think that would pertain directly to the type of strategic path chosen by our elected president to safeguard the state and not break it apart, basically, by choosing gradual reform that is phased out through the institutional heritage left over by Mubarak…rather than utilizing revolutionary reform which was suggested to be much more surgical but perhaps much more swift and forceful than it may actually crack the ability of the state to service the citizens. So it was a choice of political leadership, and at the end of the day you can’t really force a president to do anything except through a parliament and we didn’t have one.
The centerpiece of democracy was not there. It was pushed out by the military council just before it. I think that the three year period that we went through that transition have proved a lot of lessons learned to most of us because at the end of the day we’re all amateurs in that scene. No one had political experience in running a country in Egypt, specifically not under Mubarak’s dictatorship. With many of the leaders of the old political system now either gone silent or in prison or killed, it becomes the revolutionary streets responsibility again. The Muslim Brotherhood and the coalition for legitimacy may have carried the banner of the anti-coup movement for the 50 days that they were in Raba’a and Nahda sit-in, but now it’s a people’s revolution and the people are leading it. Yet again a critical mass but its enlarging and there is no sustainability to a coup under these conditions. They can’t run a country under these conditions.
Margaret Warner: I want to read you something that was on the web just about an hour ago and it says, it came from a website actually in Israel. It said a spokesperson for Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom of Justice Party released an editorial on the official website of the party newspaper in which he admits the movement made mistakes while empowering Egypt: “we must apologize for the poor functioning of the Muslim Brotherhood led government and for the tendency to remain exclusively in power,” wrote the spokesperson. Is that for real?
Gehad El-Haddad: Yes (smiles) one spokesperson did indeed write such an editorial but he also said at the end of it “these are my ideas my objective reality of the scene and there are different opinions.”
I mean at the end of the day Muslim Brotherhood is not one opinion — and the Freedom of Justice Party for that matter — any group of people would have a myriad of opinions, but the decision making mechanism within any of them, within the Muslim Brotherhood, is shoura which is basically one man, one woman, one vote. The scenario or the decision that takes up the majority of the vote is what becomes enacted and becomes the official position for the Muslim Brotherhood. I’m a spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, I don’t represent my personal ideas I represent the Brotherhood’s own official ideas and that’s the reality of the organized work if you wish to say in a way. But also, having said that, any human being would commit mistakes and we have transitioned from becoming a movement that is largely oppressed by the regime, to a movement that has been given the banner to lead the state. And we tried as best we could. Mistakes were made. Some wrong decisions, some right decisions were made. But within the context of political dialogue and discussions we stuck to the rules of the game because this was the only way to sort out the differences. And then someone broke the rules of the game and decided to weigh in the number of crowds on the street and decided “Well, I like this crowd better! I’m going to stage a coup!” So it’s quite simple from our eyes. There is voting mechanisms at the ballot box and then there is the democracy building blocks which we were set out to build on a phased out schedule, not directly within one moment because the culture itself has not yet been stilled in (sic).
Margaret Warner: So did you agree with this spokesperson who did say that the Brotherhood though had a tendency to remain exclusively in power? I’m not quite sure what that means but was there a kind of exclusivity, that in retrospect lost you a lot of support and also left the Brotherhood isolated to some degree?
Gehad El-Haddad: I wouldn’t call it exclusivity. I would say that one of the major issues that we have faced is that our communication was not delivered to the citizens because those who managed the channel were the media, private and public and most of it was run by Mubarak (supporters), so that was the biggest part of the problem. But in terms of the Brotherhood’s initiatives to become inclusive I think that actually we went overboard but we didn’t go to the right players. We went to many of the old players instead of the new revolutionary youth. Because they were organized and they weren’t representative political parties.
So, many of the old players have stepped back when they were asked to take on government positions. I’ve been close to many of the negotiating circles, I’ve worked closely with the European mediators that came in the final weeks before President Morsi’s ouster, trying to form what can be surmised as a coalition government and I’ve seen their official positions and many of them backed out. Nothing more than for the fact that they believe Egypt is a fireball of responsibility and they don’t want to be standing next to us when we are being burnt holding it.
Margaret Warner: And who do you say walked out?
Gehad El-Haddad: Many of the representatives on the NSF — from the National Salvation Front — from even other youth groups were all asked to take on board responsibilities of ministries, come up with programs that can be sustainable that can be given to the public scrutiny. At the end of the day revolutions can bring down regimes but you can’t build something with them. They have to go through political systems and political parties and political parties means that you have to have a program to present to the people.
Our program may be good it may be bad but it was the choice of the people at the end of the day, you can’t contest it by saying “It’s not good!” You contest it by saying “I’ve got something better.” And the choice is not for us it’s the people.
Margaret Warner: Now where does the Brotherhood go from here?
Gehad El-Haddad: The Brotherhood has only one course from here: keep pushing forward, be with the people on the streets and to not compromise on the revolution of January 25th demands.
We want freedom, we want dignity and we want social justice. And the system by which a population as diverse as Egypt can govern its differences is democracy. One man, one woman, one vote. Politicians need to present their programs, contest it, and the people have the choice. Not some idealist or not some military general that decides what he thinks is best for the people and then acts on it, nothing more, because he has the power of the gun.
Margaret Warner: But right now this process is going forward run by this essentially military appointed government or a military appointed president who appointed a government. They say they are a six to nine month time table for a new constitution and new elections. So where does the Brotherhood fit into that?
Gehad El-Haddad: Isn’t it funny how fast people forget history? We went through this with our own military, with the Egyptian military twice before. In fact we went through with it in the past three years since the January 25th revolution. And the people went to the ballot box and they made their choices. But some military general decided I don’t like his choices I’m going to change the rule of the game!
So what guarantee do the people have of not going through this for the fourth time in Egypt’s recent history and the military not flipping the table on everyone’s vote yet again?
For me there are two guarantees. One, that the Egyptian people won’t take it. They will go into mass civil disobedience and they will bring the state to the halt to make sure that the military knows its place it belongs in the barracks, not on the political scene. And the second one is actually for the world. Who can welcome on an international scene, on a global village arena, a military dictator that just ousted a democratically elected president? Because once legitimacy is restored, and it will be sooner or later, it might take months or it might take years and we’re the ones known for our patience of working for years to change an objective, but when that happens every country that stood and supported the coup will be looked at in that order. Will be viewed in that light, and that includes our Arab Gulf neighbors who supported, financed and conspired internally inside Egypt to bring down the state. So how can the world welcome a dictator?
Margaret Warner: Where do you put the United States in that?
Gehad El-Haddad: I think the United States has made the most strategic mistakes on every side of the equation. It’s no surprise that they are most hated country in Egypt on both sides of the game and I think that you really need to stand with yourselves as a country and ask yourself, “Do we stand with the principals by which our founding fathers stood for? (Your founding fathers.) Or do you stand with the interests, whether they are military or economically or otherwise?”
My argument is that you can’t separate both. Interest becomes part of the principle. Because when you stand with a population, you have sustainable relationships. When you stand with the government, governments go and come back. We’ve seen it with Mubarak and we’ve seen the apology of the western leaders, including the US administration, for standing with Mubarak and supporting him by giving him international legitimacy when he lacked such a legitimacy inside his country. And you promised that you would stand with the new Egypt, with an infant democracy that was trying to stand on its feet for the first time Egypt’s history. But unfortunately many of you questioned the intentions of the new leaders, many of the western leaders questioned the political programs because of the baggage and the heritage of anything that pertained to Islamic parties in the world over. And at the end the military took a coup. In fact, if they would have waited for a parliamentary election which was supposed to happen that month, right now actually, who knows? Maybe the level of unpopular vote on the ground would have allowed other factions to sweep the parliament and would have actually asked President Morsi to step down, but through democratic means. On no conditions are we ever stuck to an individual or even a single party. What we are stuck to is the legitimacy of the people’s vote. And that no one can speak on behalf of them except the ones they elect.
Margaret Warner: So is there any prospect now of any sort of reconciliation between the Brotherhood and those running the interim government and trying to get see this process through to new elections?
Margaret Warner: We have put our full support behind the roadmap that the president has put forth — President Morsi — which is identical to the roadmap that Sisi has put forth, except for the fact that he kidnapped the president and he killed half the country basically. So the difference here is that the roadmap itself allows any changes whether to the constitution, whether to the parliament or even to the presidency itself, because it has to go through a democratic means. Not be forced or run by a coup government. And the second point to that is we are not representative of the Egyptian people. We are representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, I speak on their behalf. But the only individual who is representative of the Egyptian people is President Morsi and he’s the one that can be negotiated with and he’s the one that can legitimize transference of power so that sustainable, continual, constitutional legitimacy prevails in Egypt. Otherwise no government, no country in the world will ever deal with a coup government as representative, because any loan they try to get and the agreement they try to go into, everyone knows it’s not representative of the sovereign Egyptian people and knows that sooner or later it will be discredited.
Margaret Warner: So in practical terms is the Brotherhood still insisting that President Morsi be reinstated, be recognized or be acknowledged to still be the elected president of Egypt before any sort of transitional arrangement can be agreed upon?
Gehad El-Haddad: Actually let me switch the word here. Every sort of transitional agreement can be agreed upon but only through the president of the country and not through anyone else not even through ourselves.
Margaret Warner: And if he’s not? Then what happens?
Gehad El-Haddad: Continue pushing on the streets. The anti-coup movement is gaining momentum every day, we continue pushing on the streets the anti-coup movement is working on the streets, we’re gaining momentum every day, every hour until sooner or later enough people will realize what a disaster this was and the scales will tip.
Margaret Warner: Back to the Brotherhood and its future. We have spoken to people who’ve said the Brotherhood needs to take lessons learned and needs to evolve as an organization kind of internally. Everything from the way it’s organized–and sort of top down, I’m quoting other people here but some include Islamists and Islamists empathizers–everything from that sort of organization, to also just a new kind of willingness to share power, to see compromise as not inherently bad but as a way of governing. I know it’s hard for you in your position right now to be entertaining such questions but do you think there is something to that?
Gehad El-Haddad: Change is the only constant there is in this world and we believe that. But we also believe that change happens through the mechanisms that we employ. And in an organization as big as the Muslim Brotherhood, change is not a swift decision to be made. It has to go through the process itself within the organization and we’ve gone through that after the January 25th revolution, when we basically changed seats in the car from the backseat to the driver seat and that has rippled through the organization itself.
But the real change would come, and I think now has come, from the adoption of the revolutionary model of reforming the state rather than the gradual partnership, inclusive model. Because the revolutionary model has basically asked a red line has to be drawn, separating the old regime from anything new because now we want our country back to the people. And honestly we did not believe that this was the right scenario in January 25th revolution. We believed that compromises need to be made. But now the youth leaders of the different revolutionary movements on the street are demanding that no compromise has to be made with the old regime and with the actors of the old regime. In fact, some would blame us of stepping over the inclusive line and becoming too inclusive by allowing the old state to survive throughout that period and thus, regained enough power to bring back the to bring down the democracy that we had.
But on a personal level I would think that from an organization built under oppressive regimes, once you are allowed to function in a democracy your ideas are put back into the center of the scene. By nature you become evolving. Because the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but changing. Under different oppressive regimes there were problems in changing leadership patterns. There were problems in starting new functions because everything we did was regarded by the government as illegal and cracked down upon.
We would change offices every other week because one office would be raided, our leaders would be arrested thousands in one week. But under a democracy everyone is allowed to function no one was scared to say his opinion, no one was scared to say a different opinion and everyone trusted the fact that they won’t be oppressed because of saying something different. This has changed now.
Margaret Warner: Are you saying going that there are younger members of the Brotherhood or maybe your age but who if anything think President Morsi was too accommodating and who in fact are now espousing a more confrontational approach?
Gehad El-Haddad: Not confrontational, but more principled approach. And there are of course.
There are members within the Muslim Brotherhood on every side of the opinion. But the Brotherhood as an organization, like I said before, it takes its official decision on this that mobilization on the ground through coordinating all of these inputs in and realizing what the best scenario is according to the pros and cons. It’s a very pragmatic way of deciding how to move forward. But when that becomes part of the streets movement and given the fact that now it’s a leaderless movement and no one can really guide it, (it) becomes a much more people’s decision.
Rationale flows down and emotions flow higher, but even within that context what we are insisting on throughout the process is that we remain non-violent. And it’s not confrontational but it’s principled. We’re deciding that anyone that took part of the coup has now has a window of chance to leave the game, to make sure that he credits his position as not supporting the military coup. And to continue supporting the democratic process because sooner or later this is the only outcome that can be expected. It might take more time. It certainly took a lot of lives and a lot of blood, but we as a people, as a nation, are determined to regain our freedom. Because I would rather live in a country that respects my rights and my vote that at least allows a better future, if not for me then for my sons and my daughters, than live in an oppressive regime that robs me from everything. Many of my generation were hoping for better lives outside our own country. Now we’ve decided to change the future of our own country, to make sure that everyone rights and everyone’s voice is heard. Or, we’ll die trying.
Margaret Warner: Do you think that any of your members if the Muslim Brotherhood continues to be cracked down upon as it is currently and there is not reconciliation and there is no participation in the political process, do you think some will turn to violence that we’ll see a rebirth of some sort of insurgency such as took place here say in the ’90s?
Gehad El-Haddad: In the Muslim Brotherhood I don’t think so; it’s a very principled organization, you don’t really select to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Muslim Brotherhood selects you. I mean, the first level of leadership, it takes you seven years to be there. Non-violence is central to the cultural of the Muslim Brotherhood. So I don’t think anytime sooner or later the Brotherhood is going to turn to violent means of change.
I can’t say the same by other groups in Egypt, because yes, there were violent ideas here in Egypt, there were extremists ideas that took up arms. And unfortunately because our major argument when we were leading that movement, was democracy is the only means of change…has been devalued by the military coup. And even those countries that stood and practiced, and even cheered democracy for decades across the world have welcomed the military coup. It gives merit to the argument that violence is another means of change. We still stand by non-violence, and we still stand that peacefulness is the only strength we have in the face of military might, and the violence of the coup regime and the police state.
Will others still stand by it? Thus far they are. Thus far the movement now has embodied fully the concept of peacefulness and non-violence and those ideas of resorting to violence are being quieted down or pushed outside the scene by the people themselves who have to combat belief by their own.
Margaret Warner: Now the assassination attempt on the interior minister did the Brotherhood do you believe have anything to do with it? Any Brotherhood members? If not whom do you think is responsible perhaps?
Gehad El-Haddad: Of course not. I mean I don’t think anyone had anything to do with it. I mean we have enough evidence of the ground. The fact that it was announced an hour before on one of the pro-coup channels. The fact that the military of interior of affairs itself said that they had prior knowledge of it but they didn’t change the course of the vehicle, they actually changed the vehicle itself. I mean there are so many inconsistencies and so many very minor details that end up to one thing: it was nothing more than a staged event to make sure that in order to terrorize the people tell them they have to fear something. It’s the ultimate equation that every dictator puts forward: it’s your freedom or your fear. One of them has to be taken.
And I think the Egyptian people, specifically since January 25th revolution and more specifically, the more the youth revolution are interconnected through social media and the like, have grown accustomed to realizing that this is nothing more than staged events to give the regime the type of credibility he wants to stage even more crackdowns and more attacks. And they are going through that on a weekly basis and it’s become a dulled routine being made fun of in reality.
If you go back to 1950’s it’s almost exactly the same time line that they are walking through. The exact same steps. Nothing has changed. Other than the fact that they think they live in the 1950’s and they can’t realize the fact that everyone now knows what they are doing, that the people of Egypt now are so interconnected, that other people of the world are so interconnected, that when a girl in Turkey made the Raba’a sign with her hand, in a couple of weeks it was hundreds of millions of profiles on Facebook and Twitter and it was a worldwide movement of solidarity, that democracy stands for and Egypt stands for.
Margaret Warner: So in the end you are putting your faith in the revolutionary youth waking up, in your view, and seeing that this coup was fundamentally anti-democratic and flipping sides again.
Gehad El-Haddad: Some revolutionary youth will. Some, some are too afraid. Some have been bought. What we are putting our faith into is the Egyptian people because ultimately it’s their choice, because it’s their future.
If they believe that their future is in jeopardy, that their freedom is in jeopardy, they will mobilize to the ground and they will tell that coup government that they are not welcome. If they don’t believe so, they will continue sitting in their homes watching TV listening to the coup messages and we will be the ones continuing on the ground and facing the odd of… beating of the police state on our backs and our families even, and then the detainments and the arrests and the closures and all that. We don’t mind being the frontline of that, or the spearhead. We’ve took that beating before we can take it and we can continue we’ve been doing it for 86 years.
But ultimately we’ve made our choice and we can understand its consequences and I’m certainly ready to deal with these consequences. But have the rest made that choice? I don’t think so. I think more people are still hoodwinked by the coup regime and the different lies that they spew out.
I think that the more we bring the message to their doorstep through rallies, through protests, disbursed non-violent actions and ideas that the youth are spearheading, and many of them, the revolutionary youth groups, almost every other week we see a new group being folded in. And of course we can’t forget the fact that the stupidity of the coup government’s actions is actually bringing a lot of people back to their mindset. They are realizing that these guys have (crossed) every other red line that there is nothing more that they can do, but they can scare a population that is neither willing to bow down to their demands nor willing to retaliate to them.
Margaret Warner: We have been to a couple of your protest rallies these ones that just sort of you know, flash mob, organized sort of at the last minute. And the people are very emphatic and they believe their vote was stolen and many of the things you say are what they say. But they are small and they also don’t get much coverage. How long do you think it’s going to take for these smaller protests to mass again into the kind of movement that here in Egypt that has forced political change on a couple occasions?
Gehad El-Haddad: You know one of the signs that’s being carried in some of these protests is “we will depress depression.” So that’s our message. How long? As long as it takes. You can’t put a price on freedom. It’s literally as long as it takes. I’m not willing to let go of my freedom, of my future, just because some general in the military decided that they are better than me at judging what my country’s future is. It’s as long it takes and it’s what we do best. They’ve pushed us back our comfort zone they’ve pushed the population back to their comfort zone of opposing a dictatorship regime, a police state.
At least now the gray zones that did exist in the January 25th revolution do not exist now. It’s black and white. Where do you stand, with the coup or with democracy? And that extends to the rest of the world as well. We’ve seen some American congressmen come over here and give a message of solidarity to Al-Sisi and to the coup. Quite shameful and disgraceful. But we also know that America is not one voice. We also know that as shameful and disgraceful as these congressmen are–and women for that matter–there are also others on the other side of the table that even through their differences, they still stand by the same principles upon which America was founded as a country. And we want that same democracy here. It’s not all carbon copies from everyone and another, because democracy is a system that allows the nation itself to decide what its future (is). Who are its leaders? How can they course correct their actions? That’s exactly what we want. It’s our first year isn’t it, and they demolished the system along with the votes.
Margaret Warner: (We) have been here over the last two and a half years. We were here for the January 25th revolution, we came sort of near the end of the 2011 during the SCAF era, and now we’re back and the thing that’s hit us, really, is how polarized Egyptian society seems now. In a way that it wasn’t in either of those two other times, despite all the frustration. How did it get to this point?
Gehad El-Haddad: I think under the dictatorship of Mubarak, the mode of divide and conquer was the action of the game which did not allow many of the factions within the Egyptian society, ideological or otherwise even, to interact with one another, to get to know one another. So in the January 25th revolution, the 18 days, it was easy for us as a population to combinely agree on not wanting Mubarak as a leader of the country and everything he represented.
But when we started discussing with one another who we wanted instead, we quarreled. We found out for the first time perhaps that we had different ideas for the future or our country and that quarreling then resulted on the ground to a game of calculation on who gets the largest number of votes, who is most connected. So it wasn’t a big leap of logic to realize that the end of every game would be standoff between the old regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, because they are the most two organized connected forces on the ground.
But everyone else was trying to be part of the game through mobilization and through creating new political parties and so one. And I think we couldn’t agree on an inclusive choice and that’s what brought us to that. We had to go through that turmoil to realize how when we were all one line, on one objective, we agreed to it, we managed to get it through. But once we quarreled and divided our power, the old regime the most powerful of us all, managed to crawl back into the game with as much might and as much brutality and is no longer trying to save face. they released Mubarak and launched a 2014 presidential campaign for him. I mean, I can’t believe this is happening over again. But sometimes you need that such hard lessons to realize the mistakes you’ve done so that when you are given a chance to do it over again, you would do it differently. And I think many of us are now, even between ourselves, are listening to that voice in our heads, that you are now being given a chance to do this right. But this time, work through the system and trust the people.
And I think that a lot of us now are realizing that connectiveness on the streets is what gave birth to this revolution and to the democracy itself. Perhaps the strategic mistake that politicians did in this country–and that includes us–was to disconnect themselves from the revolutionary track…
Margaret Warner: So finally when you say, “We had very different visions of where we wanted to go,” the other side says, “the vision of the Brotherhood was to impose a kind of Islamic state. A state in which its version of the proper Islamic life is imposed on others with different views, imposed by the state.” Do you agree with that? I mean is that the Muslim Brotherhood vision? If it is not a more quote unquote “Islamic state” enforced by law and the state then what is it?
Gehad El-Haddad: Sometimes the phrases or the words we choose carry different meanings in each other’s heads and my call to you and to your viewers on your program is that at the end of the day a vision is something I carry so no one can speak about my vision but me. But when I translate that vision into political programs, we have three documents translating that vision. A presidential program, a party program and the Nahda program–which is the ultimate vision the long term vision of what Egypt is like to be. All three of them have been translated in English they are available online. Have your viewers read them and decide for themselves. What we adhere ourselves to is the rule of the game. Not a specific outcome but the rules of the game. Democracy is the system and that everyone has the right to choose the future of their country according to the people’s vote and the grassroots power he has behind him.
So they need to get work, rather than like some of our opposition parties then, when they lost elections they went rushing to the military telling them I want a big bully back on the scene because I can’t win the people’s trust.
Margaret Warner: Well but you are talking about process here and I’m not talking about what Americans think of your program or your ultimate vision or where you want to take the country so much as what other Egyptians think. Many, many have said to us they thought you were trying to impose a certain vision of the future of Egypt on people that didn’t want that.
*Gehad El-Haddad: *I think that as much as many people thought we wanted to impose a vision of a certain nature, many people thought we wanted to impose a vision have a different nature and many thought that the vision we wanted to put forth was the vision that they voted for. At the end of the day it’s our vision. It has details in it, we might call it, yes it’s an Islamic vision. But at the end of the day it’s our vision.
We come from an Islamic party. Our point of reference is our religion because it gives us the values that holds us accountable to a higher moral ground than just the politics and good nature. We think that this makes us achievable, or has a certain benchmark that others may lack.
And this is exactly the program we have put forth to the people and we’re acting on that program. But at the end of the day the system itself of parliament, votes, MPs, politicians, executive authority, the judicial branch, these are the actions that make the system work. We didn’t have all of them. My argument would be that centerpiece to an earlier question you asked, of what brought us here, the centerpiece of a democratic system is representation of the people’s opinions and votes. That happens in the parliament. When SCAF derailed our parliament and the president did every attempt to restore that parliament but unfortunately the old elements of the regime in many areas, including in the judiciary, stood against that. The reason that this parliament did not exist allowed this space for others to say “Oh the Egyptian people want different things.” That crowd of masses is bigger than that crowd of masses and thus I think that they should be the ones representing Egypt not you. We have a way of counting people at Egypt in any country in the world it’s called a ballot box…
Margaret Warner: Gehad El-Haddad thank you very much and thank you for spending this much time with us.
Gehad El-Haddad: Thank you.