Content

1 Introduction (Cornelis Hulsman) in:

Cornelis Hulsman (Ed.)

From Ruling to Opposition, page 23 - 32

Islamist Movements and Non-Islamist Groups in Egypt 2011-2013

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-3837-6, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6739-0, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828867390-23

Series: Anwendungsorientierte Religionswissenschaft, vol. 9

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
1 Introduction (Cornelis Hulsman) 2013 was a crucial year in Egypt's history. It was a year in which the relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies on one hand and their opponents on the other became increasingly tense culminating in repeated massive demonstrations. As a result of these demonstrations Egypt's then Minister of Defence, General ‘Abd al-Fattäh al-Sisi, issued a number of clear warnings, not just at the ruling Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party but at all political factions, declaring that political unrest could instigate the "collapse of the state."3 On June 23, General al-Sisi cautioned "There is a state of division in society, and the continuation of it is a danger to the Egyptian state, there must be consensus among us all."4 Expectations were that president Muhammad Mursi would make efforts to heal divisions in society or call for new presidential elections but instead he remained defiant. In June 2013, he replaced many regional governors with Muslim Brotherhood members, loyalists or allies. One such appointment included establishing a leader of the Jamä 'a al-Islämiyya, as the governor of Luxor, the very city where members of the Jamä 'a al-Islämiyya killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians in November 1997. These and other decisions showed that President Mursi was seeking support from more hardline Islamists instead of seeking consensus with his poli-tical opponents.5 Muslim Brotherhood leaders knew that the president and his government had lost popularity but rejected calls for new presidential elections giving examples of presidents in the West who had experienced low popularity but nevertheless continued to serve the entire period.6 The largest demonstrations began nationwide on June 30 which promp-ted General al-Sisi to warn President Mursi on July 1 "that we still have 48 hours to find a way out of the crisis."7 Mursi remained defiant. On July 3rd, the Egyptian army led by General ‘Abd al-Fattäh al-Sisi removed him from power. In order to understand the crisis in 2013 we need to go back to January 25, 2011. Youth belonging to leftist movements drew increasingly large num Saleh 2013. Kingsley 2013 (a). Hulsman (ed.) 2013 (a). Diana Serödio and Cornelis Hulsman meeting Dr. Usäma Farid on May 15,2013, in the Marriot Hotel, Zamalek, Cairo. Interview with Dr. ‘Amr Darräj, July 22, 2013. Al-Sisi 2013. 23 bers of demonstrators who, three days later, were joined in full force by the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstrations quickly spread to more cities8 which in turn led to the overthrow of autocratic president Husni Mubärak on February 11. This was the beginning of the Muslim Brotherhood's even tual ascent to power. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) then took over the rule of Egypt. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) then took over the rule of Egypt. The SCAF started negotiating with the Muslim Brothers and other political actors at the time. This resulted in the SCAF appointment of Judge Täriq al-Bishri, a top Egyptian legal expert widely believed to be sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, as head of the Egyptian Constitutional Review Committee to begin reviewing the con stitution. On March 19, 2011, Egyptians voted on the text of al-Bishri's committee, limiting presidential terms to a maximum of two four-year terms, and stipulating a roadmap where parliamentary elections would come first, followed by presidential elections and the formation of a Constituent Assembly to write a new permanent constitution for Egypt. The Brotherhood and other Islamist groups campaigned in favour of accepting this roadmap while their opponents believed amending the Constitution should come before holding elections.The debates between Islamists and non-Islamists were heavily focused on the role of religion in the Egyptian Constitution as was earlier discussed in "The Sharia as the Main Source of Legislation?"9 The Center for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation (CIDT) asked statistician Dr. Fätima Al-Zanäti to carry out a study on whether Egyptians wanted to cancel or keep Article II of the Egyptian Constitution. This article specifies that the Shari 'a is the main source of legislation. Egyp tians overwhelmingly wanted this article to remain. This point is an excellent indicator of Egypt's religiosity, which was used and manipulated by Islamists during the elections.10 The parliamentary elections in December 2011-January 2012 resulted in 68.95% of the votes going to a bloc of Islamist parties with non-Islamist par ties receiving the remaining 31.05%. Most voters for Islamist parties were not Islamists but religious swing voters who, lured by promises of Islam ists, believed they would be the political group best able to bring Egypt stability and economic progress. The Islamists used their victory to form a Constitutional Assembly that would produce a new constitution with heavy Islamist leanings. Non-Islamists resisted these efforts and other ef- Not the countryside. Hulsman (ed.) 2012 (a) This book discusses the history of the debates about the role of the Shari 'a in Egypt in which Islamists and non-Islamists have had widely different opinions in the decades prior to the January 25 Revolution. El-Zanaty and al-Ghazali 2012. 24 forts to push an Islamist agenda which resulted in a decline of support for Islamists. In the first round of the presidential elections, the Islamist candidates received only 43.77% of the vote, indicating a rapid decline in popularity. The second round of the Presidential elections pitted Muhammad Mursi and Ahmad Shafiq against each other. Mursi represented the Muslim Brother hood and depicted himself as a proponent of revolutionary forces against the old regime. Ahmad Shafiq, a former air force general and Mubärak's last Prime Minister, presented himself as an independent candidate, but was widely viewed as a representative of the old Mubärak regime. It did not help Shafiq's claim of being an independent candidate that the Supreme Constitutional Court had dissolved the Egyptian Parliament and declared the Political Disenfranchisement Law as unconstitutional on June 14. The Political Disenfranchisement Law had been accepted by the Muslim- Brotherhood dominated parliament in order to bar former officials from Mubärak's government from government participation. This added to the already extremely tense atmosphere with a lot of rhetoric, continuous alle gations and bad-mouthing in both directions. The Al-Ahram Weekly described this as "a war between two political blocs" with: Shafik openly accusing Mursi, and the Muslim Brotherhood, of wanting to drag Egypt into outmoded norms and with Mursi openly accusing Shafik of working with the support of state security bodies and a corrupt business community to re-instate the Mubarak regime in what would amount to a total elimination of the revolution.11 The consequence was that, in the first round of voting, around 7% of the voters who had voted for a non-Islamist candidate now voted for Mursi for no other reason than fear of a return to the old regime. The ballot boxes closed on June 17, 2012. On the same day the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces published an appendix to the interim Constitutional Declara tion in the Official Gazette which gave itself "the final say over swathes of domestic and foreign policy."12 The decree increased fear for military Inter vention in the electoral process with Shafiq seen, rightly or wrongly, as the candidate more closely associated with the SCAF. The Muslim Brotherhood immediately declared electoral victory which was given credibility by Ahram Online, stating that "initial indications appeared to suggest victory for Ezzat 2012 (a). El-Din 2012. 25 Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed M orsi."13 But Ahram Online al so stated that the two presidential campaigns continued to exchange accusations of electoral fraud. Meanwhile, there were several reports of violations, including illegal campaigning in front of polling stations, vote-buying, influencing voters to choose certain candidates, and arranging votes for military and police personnel.14 Ahram Online stated on June 18 that counting is still in progress but "indications so far put Morsi in the lead - 51.74% to 48.25%."15 Monday morning, June 18, Mursi declared victory in what was seen as his "acceptance speech." The Al-Ahram Weekly reports that chants of "God is great" and "down with military rule" rang out at the press conference, and hundreds of Mursi supporters marched to Tahrir Square to celebrate.16 The Shafiq campaign rapidly responded that their candidate had won the elections. "The Muslim Brotherhood, they claimed, was attempting to impose a fait accompli."17 One day later they claimed Shafiq was leading Mursi by half a million votes. Lawyers of both parties filed complaints of vote rigging with the Presidential Election Committee which decided to investigate the claims and postpone the election results. This also made the war of words continue and enabled at the same time secret negotiations to take place between different parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the army. Opponents to the army used the terms revolution and revo lutionaries liberally for any activity that opposed any form of army interference in politics. On the evening of June 19 Tahrir Square was packed with mainly Brotherhood and Salafi demonstrators chanting: 'we shall continue the struggle', 'down with SCAF' and 'leave! We won't leave, they leave!', a revival of a slogan popular throughout the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, only this time directed against the military council.18 On June 20 the Muslim Brotherhood issued a warning: "There will be a "dangerous faceoff" between the people and the army if Ahmed Shafiq is Shukrallah 2012. Ibid. El-Rashidi 2012 (a). Abdel-Baky 2012. Ibid. El-Nahhas 2012. 26 declared Egypt's new president." Meanwhile the President of the Presidential Election Committee stated that "the results announced by both cam paigns are inaccurate and do not take into account the appeals that have been filed." 19 On June 22 Ahram Online referred to an unknown source in the government who had said that Shafiq will be declared victor with 50.7 per cent of the vote.20 The Muslim Brotherhood suspected support of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for Ahmad Shafiq21 and called for a meeting with prominent representatives of the liberal opposition and revolutionary youth who were equally opposed to a former army officer becoming president at the Fair mont Hotel on June 2 2 ,2012.22 The Brotherhood promised their ideological opponents that they would not nominate a Muslim Brother as Prime Minis ter and would give the opposition candidate a place in the government. The Fairmont meeting sent a message to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Presidential Elections Committee that not only the Muslim Brotherhood, but also anti-Shafiq liberals and revolutionary youth would resist if the Committee would announce Shafiq as winner.23 With this they gave a clear signal that not only they but also other parties that feared a return to military rule would resist a Shafiq presidency. There was fear in those days that there would be civil unrest if Shafiq would become president. Ahram Online reported that: a number of newspapers have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of cooking up an aggressive reaction in case their candidate loses. Al Dostor newspaper went as far as claiming that the group was planning "the massacre of the century. 24 Finally, after a week long tense stand off, on June 24, the Presidential Elec tion Committee declared Muhammad Mursi to be the winner with a narrow 51.73% against 48.27% for Shafiq. Shafiq claimed this outcome to be fraudulent and disputed this for years.25 Later documents of the same Presidential Election Committee popped up showing that they had declared Shafiq Ahram Online 2012 (b). Ezzat 2012. Shukrallah 2013 (a). Ikhwanweb 2012 (d). Interview Cornelis Hulsman with Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, November 22, 2015. Ahram Online 2012 (c). Hulsman 2014 (b). 27 president with 56.67% of the votes as winner of the elections.26 Mursi, according to that document collected 40.14% of the votes while the 3.19% of the votes were declared invalid. It is impossible to tell what is true and what is not. However certain is that Mursi's 'victory' was both narrow and contested, yet he tried to push through an Islamist agenda which infuriated his opponents, including the participants in the Fairmont meeting of June 2012 who felt that Mursi had not lived up to this promises for sharing pow er in June 2012.27 On November 22,2012, Mursi issued his infamous Constitutional Declaration, giving him powers over Egypt's judiciary to prevent them from dismantling the Egyptian Constituent Assembly and thus pushing through an Islamist colored Egyptian Constitution in December 2012. This was widely perceived to be as authoritarian as that as his predecessor Husni Mubärak.28 In these days, researchers of the Center for Arab-West Understanding and Arab-West Report interviewed both prominent Islamist actors as well as their opponents. This drew the interest of Prof. Dr. Wolfram Reiss, publisher of Anwendungsorientierte Religionswissenschaft who encouraged the Center for Arab-West Understanding to interview pro-minent actors and use this as the basis for this book. At the time we, of course, did not know that we would witness the end of the Mursi regime and neither did the Muslim Brotherhood. Dr. ‘Amr Darräj, prominent Muslim Brotherhood member and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, wrote to me on June 30 about the anti- Mursi demonstrations, "It will pass. Egyptians will never let violence prevail."29 When a senior leader did not expect this, it is likely that other senior members of the Brotherhood close to the president did not expect this either, despite the repeated warnings given by Minister of Defense ‘ Abd al-Fattäh al-Sisi in the preceeding months and days. Following Mursi's removal the National Alliance Supporting Legitimacy was founded in which the Muslim Brotherhoods and part of the politicized Salafis cooperated in rejecting the overthrow of President Mursi, refusing to negotiate with the interim regime who wanted them to accept this new real ity and invited them to participate in the new Constituent Assembly that was being formed in those days. The Brothers, however, rejected this since their president was removed through demonstrations and an army inter Colonel Sabry Yassin's Facebook Page accessed July 2015. https://www.facebook.com/sabry.yassin.92 Shukrallah 2013 (c). Hulsman (ed.) 2013 (a). Personal email of Dr. ‘Amr Darräj to Cornelis Hulsman, June 30, 2016. 28 vention and not through new elections that they had earlier rejected. The same uncompromising attitudes we found at the Islamist Räba 'a al- 'Adawiyya sit-in that formed the background of the violent dispersal that resulted in at least 800 deaths and countrywide violence in which police stations and church property were attacked and policemen were brutally murdered.30 Efforts we witnessed in September and October 2013 to negotiate a compromise could not possibly produce results because of the un compromising positions of different parties that with ongoing violence only became sharper. The roadmap changed. It became the Constitution first, followed by Presidential elections and Parliamentary elections. In this period, we experienced the formation of a new Constituent Assembly which resulted in a new Constitution that was accepted by referendum in January 2014. The battle over the Constitution was a battle over the identity of Egypt. It is thus not surprising that Islamist influences in the Constitution were greatly reduced.31 We have conducted 79 interviews with 65 people, starting on April 1,2011 but mostly between November 12,2012 and November 29,2013, documenting a transition from close by. The interviews were carried out with major political playersof widely different currents in this period. We have become witnesses of change to a new political reality in Egypt's history in which the positions of different political currents changed significantly. The interviews show how deeply divided Egypt had become between Islamists and non-Islamists By Islamists, we are referring to those who promote an "Islamic Project," which seeks to realize the implementation of Shari 'a and create a utopian Islamic state that would ultimately unite Egypt and other Muslim countries. Many times, this concept of an Islamic state is often invoked in reference to the Ottoman Empire, the last Muslim state in which Muslims of numerous national and ethnic backgrounds were united. However, this empire was broken up by the western powers at the end of World War I.32 This project to Islamize Egyptian society in no way means that Islamists were united in how to achieve this. Muslim Brothers believed that this could be best achieved through the political power of parliament and pres ident who would need to Islamize the institutions of the state. Salafis, how- Hulsman (ed.) 2013 (b), 2014 (a). Hulsman 2016. This was the theme of International Conference on the Middle East Strategic Landscape 100 Years After the First World War, Future University, September 12 14, 2015. The proceedings are expected to be published in 2016. 29 ever, to a large extent believed that change had to come through preaching, making Egyptians more religious and adhering to the law God has constituted in the Qur 'än, Hadith and Shari 'a, not man made laws.33 Eline Kasanwidjojo discusses the political participation of Muslim Brothers and former Brothers through the Freedom and Justice Party and other polit ical parties which show competing currents and ideas that provide a good overview of the tensions that existed in this period. Her interviews provide a unique insight into how important members and former members of the Muslim Brotherhood saw the political environment in Egypt prior to and after president Mursi was removed. Kasanwidjojo's chapter is naturally the first in this book since the Muslim Brothers were by far the largest and best organized Islamist movement in this period who forced the other political forces in Egypt to take them seriously but they also overstepped their strength by alienating non-Islamist political parties who were equally opposed to a return of the old guard around president Mubärak. The chapter of Quinta Smit deals with the Salafi political participation in the "Islamic Project." Unlike the Muslim Brothers, the Salafis had not been politically active during the Mubärak era and the Revolution took them by surprise. Some remained quietist, believing that they should remain apolitical and accept the rule of any Muslim leader while others believed that they should become politically active. Al-Nür Party was formed around al-Da 'wa al-Salafiyya, a large countrywide preaching group that, due to their spread throughout the country, were remarkably successful in the elections. Other Salafi political parties were also formed. Interviews carried out by Quinta Smit highlight a struggle between political pragmatism and religious identi ty existent inside each of the different Salafi parties. Jayson Casper interviewed al-Jamä 'a al-Islämiyya leaders and jihädi Salafis about their sense of political participation and the contradictions they faced. These people were often described in different media as terrorists. As persons they were, however, often pleasant to meet with but their inflammatory and inciting speeches made them indeed a threat to the state. The jihädi Salafis also posed a threat to the participatory Islamists' right flank, those who participated in the democratic process but who were also uncertain about 'democracy' since the laws of God should prevail over those of men. Nicholas Gjorvad discusses the response of non-Islamist movements during a period in which Islamists were dominating the political process. There was definitely a lot of soul-searching this time for non-Islamists as well as Prof. Abdallah Schleifer compared this to socialism, united in the objective to achieve a socialist society but deeply divided in how to achieve this, Wellisch 2016. 30 many discussions as to how to differentiate themselves from Islamists. Both Islamists and non-Islamists believed to be the true revolutionaries but where Islamists believed in an "Islamic Project," non-Islamists, many of them pious Muslims, believed in the rule of law but also out of fear for what they saw as Islamist reactionaries were ready to ally themselves with the old guard. The belief in relegating religion to a large extent, but not entirely, to the private sphere made many Islamists accuse them to be secular, a term often associated with atheism, a deeply troublesome accusation in a society which is overwhelmingly religious.34 The authors have made use of the network of the Center for Arab-West Understanding but also made their own connections. That was a tremendous achievement because of the general skepticism of Islamists towards Western researchers. Yet, these same Islamists also wanted their views to reach a wider Western public through a trusted academic channel. It was at times difficult, as Quinta Smit writes in her chapter "to judge the verity of certain statements made by those interviewed." All authors, however, have been very careful in reviewing and analyzing all interviews and other In formation obtained. It was obvious that both Islamists and liberals were most accessible to the researchers. Yet, opposition to Islamist views were also strong in al- Azhar and among Egypt's large Süfi network and other mainstream Muslims. They were carrying out their ideological battles with Islamists in a less visi ble way to non-Egyptian researchers, also since they were not as much involved in anti-Islamist demonstrations as liberals were. They were for example engaged in debates about Brotherhood efforts to introduce new Is lamic concepts and give new interpretations to traditional Islamic concepts. Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, distinctive professor of political science at Future University, Egypt, assisted us with the glossary of this book which shows several concepts as they are used in traditional Islam and the new meaning obtained through the efforts of Islamists ideologues. Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) introduced, for example, the concept of a vanguard of the umma, the Muslim nation, that could engage in takfir, denouncing other Muslims as apostates which justifies killing them. This, Schleifer, observed, is similar to the vocabulary of Communist parties that presented themselves as the vanguard of the work Email with a Muslim Brother who wished to remain anonymous, October 17, 2014. This Muslim Brother referred to Dr. ‘Abd al-Wahhäb al-Masiri's book on 'Whole Secularism and Partial Secularism' in which he interprets the difference in understanding secularism between Westerners and Muslims, and also why he thinks secularism was a necessity in Western societies but not in Islamic ones. I have frequently heard Islamists make references to al-Masiri. 31 ing classes and, of course, this vanguard was better able to guide the masses then the masses themselves were. Qutbis, followers of Sayyid Qutb, are, in the eyes of al-Azhar to be compared with radical revolutionaries rather than conservatives as many Muslim Brothers would present them.35 Most interviews were carried out by the authors of the different chapters and myself but we also owe thanks to the interviews of Diana Serodio, Es ther Schoorel, Ahmed Deiab, Arndt Emmerich, Judit Kuschnitzki, Fouad Masoud, Jaco Stoop, Daniela De Maria, Shabana Basheer, Mette Toft Niel sen, Omar Ali and Felix Wellisch. Editor Jenna Ferrecchia completed the first language edit. Proofreading was done by Prof. Reiss and PhD candidates Anna Hager and Sanna Plieschenegger. Later, Catherine Volkmann continued the language editing, which Quinta Smit, Nicholas Gjorvad and Matthew Sparks ultimately completed. Eva Ritt has assisting us in format ting and checking the bibliography. The index of Arabic names of people, organizations and locations was made with help of Alastair White, Cathe rine Volkmann and Eildert Mulder. The list of organizations and interviewees was made with help of Tugrul von Mende, Eline Kasanwidjodo, Quinta Smit, Jayson Casper, Nicholas Gjorvad and Khaled H. Zakaria. Arabist Eildert Mulder reviewed the transliteration of all Arabic names and texts. Filippus Hulsman created diacritics in Book Antiqua for the translite rated names. We have tried to trace the people we have interviewed. Most, in particular Muslim Brothers and Salafis, were no longer active after 2013. Some were arrested, one died in prison, others left Egypt and again others are simply no longer politically active. In 2013 Egypt went through a major political transformation, which we were witnessing and documenting at the time of its occurrence. This has resulted in a unique documentation about an important period in Egypt's modern history. The work of the authors, interviewers, editors and proofreaders has been invaluable for the composition of this book. 35 Interview Cornelis Hulsman with Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, April 7, 2016. 32

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Abstract

In 2013, a group of researchers had the unique chance to interview 61 Egyptian Islamists and their opponents both prior to and after Egypt’s military ousted President Mursī on July 3. Up to that time, Islamists with very different political perspectives were hopeful that they would be able to realize the implementation of sharīa and to create a utopian Islamic state. After the coup, many of them rejected the transformation and a number became involved in militant attacks on police, military and the judiciary. This resulted in harsh government responses. Their criticism has been muted, but they still exist. The interviews document authentic voices during this period of major political transformations. A must read for anyone who wants to understand contemporary Egypt.