A dissident, from the margins of the Muslim Brotherhood

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Tuesday 10 Jun 2014

Unlike other recent memoirs from ex-Brotherhood members, Sameh Eid's new book takes us off the grid to the Nile Delta and Yemen as he charts his dissolution with the group

Sameh Eid
Sameh Eid

Qisati ma'a Al-Ikhwan ("My Story with the Muslim Brotherhood") by Sameh Eid, Dar Al-Mahrousa, Cairo, 2014. 182 p.

A number of Brotherhood members have broken away from the group during the last three years, many of them leading members who have written books and articles detailing their profound intellectual and political reasons for leaving. An example is Tharwat El-Kherbawi, who wrote two extremely significant books based on his own bitter experience with the group – The Heart of the Muslim Brotherhood, written before the 2011 uprising, and The Secret of the Temple, written afterwards.

And so Sameah Eid's book, My Story with the Muslim Brotherhood, is notable in that the author isn't from the group's upper ranks but from its margins – Damanhour, a provincial city in the Nile Delta – which lets us see how the Brotherhood works in distant villages, schools, neighbourhoods, gatherings, mosques and small praying lots.

Eid joins the Brotherhood as a boy – with his brothers and sisters joining soon after – but it's not until his university years that he starts criticising the group, especially its leadership. A decisive moment comes when he's called up for an internal interrogation and is ordered to break off a relationship with another Brotherhood member – it seems here that Eid wakes up from a delusion. He begins to question things, the lack of appropriate channels within the group to handle criticism, which was never taken lightly, as well as the unquestionable submission towards the higher cadres.

But he doesn't leave – not yet. After university, he secures a teaching job in Yemen with the Brotherhood's help. Soon, though, he discovers that not only are his roommates filing reports about him but that the Brotherhood pervades the ranks of all Egyptian teachers in Yemen, controlling the most intimate details of their personal behaviour. Because of his roommates' reports, Eid is interrogated several more times.

He returns to Egypt "shocked", as he says. Things come to a head when he resigns from the group in 2000 and joins the Wasat Party, an Islamic party that was more in line with his persuasions at the time. However, he later determines that there are no substantial differences between the Wasat Party and the Brotherhood – and so he resigns in 2012.

This is the broad outline of Eid's involvement, but interspersed throughout are small details – nepotism among Brotherhood members, for example, or marriage customs and gender divides in Brotherhood families – that add up to tell a more profound story than the bullet points of his life. And Eid realises this, which is why he cherishes relating these details in a very natural manner.

As for his style, he writes as he speaks – which means he doesn't care about spelling or grammatical mistakes, or mixing colloquial and classical Arabic. Maybe such undisciplined writing prevents him from conveying many of his ideas. However, we soon see from the book that it's the experience – Eid's grassroots account with the Brotherhood – that is important here, all of those details. And once this is clear, Eid's spontaneous style works to his benefit, as he isn't interested in theories, analysis or political ideas, just feelings, reactions and practices in general. It's the story of an ordinary man, one of thousands from the Brotherhood that nobody usually notices, but that all of us should now, because of how he lived according to his principles.

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