Thus spoke the Brotherhood dissidents

Mahmoud El-Wardani, Friday 8 Nov 2013

Fawzi Oweis interviews nine former Muslim Brotherhood members about their experiences in Egypt's most prominent Islamist group

Book Cover
Book Cover of Muslim Brotherhood Dissidents book (Photo: Other)

Monshaqoon 'an Al-Ikhwan (Dissidents from the Muslim Brotherhood) by Fawzi Oweis, Cairo: Sama Publishing, 2013. pp.270

This book contains interviews with nine former Muslim Brotherhood members who are united by their dissidence from the group and their opposition to the group's ideas and standpoints. All of them left the group after Morsi took office, and all of them predicted his rule would not last.

The interviews were conducted by journalist, Fawzi Oweis, and published in a Kuwaiti newspaper only few weeks before the deposition of Morsi. They were conducted no earlier than two months before, judging by the events and incidents the interviewees mention.

They seem like a prophecy on the direction things were heading. The veterans devoted their entire lives to the group and were imprisoned, tortured, displaced and suffered security surveillance for the sake of its ideals. They attempted many times to reform the group but to no avail.

The real irony is that when the Brotherhood finally came to power 80 years after its foundation, it led to something like an implosion among its ranks. Huge numbers left after Morsi took office, but on the other hand, a number of those who had abandoned the group before the revolution returned to participate in political life.

The book focused on those who were preoccupied with thought and writing, giving attention to public figures such as Mohammed Habeeb, deputy to the group's Supreme Guide, who resigned after 42 years of service. He reflected on events before the 30 June protests which he called "the second wave of the Revolution." On the increasing calls for the army to intervene, even collecting signatures for the army chief to steer the country temporarily, Habeeb commented that the military had failed when ruling the country following the January 25 revolution. He added that although the army chief succeeded in regaining the respect of the people towards the military, he is not enthusiastic about a political role for such an institution.

As for Kamal El-Helbawai, who served the group for six decades, mostly in Europe, he resigned following January 25 Revolution in protest at the group's stances, beginning with the decision not to participate early on. Soon afterwards, he requested the legalisation of the group, i.e. make an authorised proclamation about its existence, announcing its budget and abiding by the laws governing civil society organisations. He considers that by failing to do so the group committed one of its most catastrophic mistakes.

The military's return to the political arena, according to El-Helbawai, was predictable, as he believed rejuvenation of the country was impossible under the Brotherhood because of its desire to consolidate power and rule alone.

One of the dissidents interviewed was Tharwat El-Kherbawi, who has written two important books on this issue: 'The Secret of the Temple' and 'The Heart of Muslim Brotherhood' based on his own experiences. While the latter was published before the revolution, the former was released much later. Naturally, the man does not add much to what was stated in his aforementioned two books. But here he asserted his prediction that the group would awaken in the first half of 2013 to find itself alone in the arena with no one supporting it, including the Salafists. The people would revolt against it because Egypt would pass through an unprecedented crisis, according to the book.

As for Mukhtar Nooh, a former leading figure in the group, he enabled Islamists to enter the Lawyers Syndicate Council and persevered for more than a quarter of a century inside the syndicate until he resigned in 2005. He pointed out, for instance, that there was no Islamic scholar among the group's members and they have failed to understand Sharia law, thus they neither applied the rules of religion nor achieved the revolution's objectives.

Nooh said the military was ready to intervene as "it became favourite among the people because it took more patriotic decisions than the others" and when "comparing between the civilian Mohammed Morsi and the military General El-Sisi they found that the latter cared more about Egypt than the former."

Of the new generation in the group, the author chose to interview Abdel-Galeel El-Sharnoubi, who was the editor of Ikhwanonline, the group's website, and resigned after a feud with Khairat El-Shater. He also interviewed Islam El-Katatni, nephew of Saad El-Katatni, former People's Assembly speaker, who resigned from the group because "it was using religion as a means to an end and was lying in the name of Sharia."

Eventually, the Brotherhood did not listen to the voice of the street, nor to the opposition political powers. They did not even listen to those who were with them and left for different reasons. It is no wonder they ended up in this tragic situation today. 


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