The aura of holiness and admiration for people falls down when you see them breathe and speak in front of you and pulsing as they consist of flesh and blood...
This was my feeling when I met Rashid Al-Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Islamic thinker and leader of Al-Nadha political party, currently Tunisia's biggest party, during his quick visit to Al-Ahram newspaper upon his short stay in Cairo to congratulate Mohamed Morsi for winning the Egyptian presidency.
There is no doubt that the man is a real thinker, to be among people, to tell them his thoughts and visions on Islam.
He is confident that the time of normalisation with Israel is now gone. He is delighted that as he sees it, Arabs have escaped the western grip after the Arab Spring, which would have not succeeded, he says, were it not for the economic crisis the West is now facing.
Instead of being proud simply of the Tunisian revolution, we find him actually proud of our revolution in Egypt, and we also notice his worry about its success as he believes that what happens in Egypt will affect the whole region.
Though he calls for a harmony among the Tunisian revolutionary forces to reconstruct the state, he insists on the exclusion of those who worked with the former regime. Here, he is speaking about Tunisia, but perhaps about Egypt too.
As old regime imposed violence on the people, he thinks transitional justice is necessary, to revive the country without being mobilised by one group or political party.
What Al-Ghannouchi says demands to be thought about and analysed, not only because it is bold, but also because it needs to be interpreted.
When he says that man tends to “deism,” he means that given the opportunity, man always tends towards tyranny. It would mean that the new president could becomes a tyrant, as this is man's natural behavior, and so care and vigilance is necessary.
Also, how can we guarantee that the new president who himself suffered persecution as he was a member of 'the banned group', not use the same means against his opposition?
I asked Al-Ghannouchi, "Sir, you say that there is chaos, that sit-ins should be dealt with harshly by the state to maintain order – is this not similar to the former regime's methods?"
I continued my question: "Don’t you think that we need to change the mentality of the security state? To allow a little chaos so that people can express their needs and problems against tyranny?"
The old man looked at me for quite some time, but appearing deep in thought, did not answer.
A colleague asked him about the fact that some members of religious groups harass women in the streets to pressure them to follow a certain lifestyle and style of dress.
He answered that, it is not the role of the state to impose a lifestyle, a uniform or a way of thinking; this is a part of individual liberties.
He added quickly, however, that this is the role of society to mobilise and propagate its ideas, without any interference of the state.
As if a stone hit my head, I imagined these people the commanders of goodness, the forbidders of the evil roaming the streets to impose their will upon the women, men, boys and girls.
I woke up from my thoughts after the meeting ended and I had a great wish to say to him, “Excuse me Mr. President,” and suggest that maybe he is right that the state should not impose a specific point of view on people, and to allow social mobililisation take its turn, and time, to develop the state, but also the role of the state is to protect the liberty, freedom of expression, doctrines and thoughts.
“Excuse me Mr. President,” and then say that the battle for freedom is what brought him here, on these chairs, “excuse me Mr. President,” and tell him he has to protect this freedom before all their seats are lost suddenly in the name of social mobilisation.
I looked at him, and he left before I was able to say to him, “Excuse me Mr. President... ”