Muslim Brotherhood member Mohamed El-Hadidy, who established the political movement QAWEM to challenge perceptions of the Islamist group and propose solutions for a way out of the current political crisis, says both the Brotherhood and the state must make vital changes in order to move forward.
El-Hadidy, an assistant professor of engineering in his late 30s, is third-generation Muslim Brotherhood. He worries that it has fallen to his generation to find a way out for the more than 80-year old organisation, which is currently facing a sustained attack; this time not just from the state as in the past, but also as a result of increasing public hostility.
El-Hadidy, however, says that the fate of the Brotherhood will be put on hold while Egyptian political forces determine a way out of the current crisis following the ouster of Islamist former president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July by the military amid mass popular protests against his rule.
Speaking to Al-Ahram Online, El-Hadidy said that he has chosen to challenge public apprehension regarding the Brotherhood through working with a group of political activists from across the spectrum to establish a new movement: QAWEM.
Literally speaking the word in Arabic means 'resist,' though its composite letters are also the initials of four words: Strength, faith, patriotism and Egypt.
"This should be our focus now. Egypt is going through a serious political crisis and we must ensure that we do not depart from the path of democracy. We need to cease complaining about the political mishaps during Morsi's rule, and within the post-Morsi transition, and start working in a way that will ensure the inclusion of all Egyptians, just as things are in QAWEM," El-Hadidy asserted.
QAWEM was established mid-August, a few days after the violent dispersal of two Islamist sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adawaya and Nahda Square, which resulted in the death of over 600 Brotherhood supporters and 40 police and security personnel.
Looking back: "Anger" and "mismanagement"
For El-Hadidy, the dispersals were not just about anti-Islamist brutality, but the decision of the state to react with excessive anger towards its opposition, as well as the failure of the Brotherhood leadership to live up to the challenge of the moment and deal with the anger of their supporters and the wider Egyptian public.
"It was a challenging moment for every Egyptian, not just for members of the Brotherhood, but perhaps especially for the youth of the Islamist group, whose anger at the mismanagement of their leaders was combined with the loss of fellow brothers and allies," El-Hadidy said.
El-Hadidy himself admits that he wanted early presidential elections and was hoping and praying that the ousted president would bow to the will of the masses, rather than let things take the path they have.
In fact, El-Hadidy was not of the opinion that Morsi should have run in the first place. He had personally supported Abdel-Moneim Aboul-Fottouh, a former leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood, who was ousted from the group over his decision to run for presidency without the backing of the Guidance Bureau.
"Today, more than ever before, I am convinced that I did the right thing. Aboul-Fottouh had the qualifications as a political leader, which I would say Morsi lacks despite his patriotism, and he had the support of so many diverse groups of people beyond the borders of the Muslim Brotherhood," El-Hadidi added.
However, he isn't keen to dwell on analysis of the past. "I would not deny that there have been some grave mistakes on our side and that the time will come for us, rather than anyone else, to contemplate this experience and call those who have made mistakes to question."
"The issue is where to move on to; the next step is what counts," El-Hadidy said, adding that all extra-ordinary measures by the state against political activism of any orientation, including Islamist, have to cease in order for the possibility of a better future.
El-Hadidi argued, "This is not to say that anyone who has violated the law should get away with it, but that the entire Muslim Brotherhood cannot be held responsible for the mistakes of a number of its members; this is not the way the law works."
Moving forward: "A mutual show of will"
El-Hadidi is cautiously hopeful about the initiative for dialogue proposed by Ahmed Kamal Aboul-Magd, an Islamist lawyer. "Obviously there is a need to reconsider the way things are done, not just on the side of the state but also on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood," he said.
According to El-Hadidi, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists need to make sure that their marches and demonstrations are non-violent and the state should stop harassing Muslim Brotherhood protesters.
"This would be a good first step; a mutual show of will to move forward and hopefully approach a form of reconciliation," El-Hadidi said, adding that other steps should be to agree on a format by which the Brotherhood can continue its religious activities aside from its political interests.
"I think the state should allow the Brotherhood to work as a religious group under the required legal regulations, rather than decide to ban it, adding salt to injury. The Brotherhood has been banned before, but it did not go away, as it has a strong social base which remains even if it is considerably undermined," El-Hadidy said.
However, El-Hadidy is convinced that what counts most is to work on stabilising the country. "We have our concerns about the fate of the Muslim Brotherhood, but this is not the key issue now. We are worried about what will follow if a whole political trend, notwithstanding the gross mistakes of its leaders, is brushed aside."
"People tend to get too engrossed in the debate of whether what happened on 3 July is a coup or not, and whether or not Morsi could be re-instated as president. We have a reality to deal with," adding that short of "a real national reconciliation, we can see the police state re-emerging."