Reconciling with Religion
Abdel Mon’im Abdul Fotouh: “A Religious State Is Rejected”
There has been noted tension in relations between Abdul Fotouh and his Brotherhood counterparts in Egypt. However, some believe that this tension is only artificial and that what the public observes is a mere political play aimed at generating public sympathy with a covert Brotherhood candidate. Notably, Dr. Abdul Fotouh had been active with the Brotherhood since he was a student at medical college. He was, then, the president of the student union of Cairo University and the secretary of the media committee at the Egyptian Universities Student Union in the 70s—not to mention that he was also one of the Brotherhood’s brightest youths. Many still remember his historic debate with late president Anwar Sadat, which was recreated in a scene in an Egyptian biographical film under the title Ayyam El Sadat (The Days of Sadat) and starring Ahmad Zaki. The scene depicts Sadat, angered by a student who was holding him accountable for the corruption and for the mishandling of Islamic symbols. This led Sadat to shout at the student with his infamous quote, “Stand properly. You are speaking to the head of the [Egyptian] family.” This student was none other than Abdel Fotouh who paid a dear price for this stance—denying him the position of a tutor at the medical college despite his academic achievements and credentials as a practiced doctor, and as a general secretary of the Arab Doctors Union.
On the other hand, Abdul Fotouh carried on his political activities within the Brotherhood until he became one of the Brotherhood’s leaders and a member of the Guidance Bureau, where he was considered as the spokesperson of the Brotherhood. Abdul Fotouh had suffered security harassments during both the Sadat and Mubarak administrations, which led at times to prison and detention.
The turning point in Abdul Fotouh’s stance towards the Muslim Brotherhood, as observed by some, was dated to the time he neglected to attend the Guidance meeting to pledge allegiance to Muhammad Badie, General Guide of the Brotherhood. The relationship between Abdul Fotouh and Badie has been highlighted by disputes and conflicts since.
Abdul Fotouh’s nomination was met by a personal denial then an open declaration a few weeks after his political campaign had begun. He also faced a wave of strong reactions from the Brotherhood. In spite of the circumstances in which Abdul Fotouh was nominated for the presidency, he is widely respected amongst his opponents for his objective views and open-mindedness, especially with controversial issues in relation to the Brotherhood’s ideology—such as those towards women and the Copts. Abdul Fotouh comes across as more flexible and accepting on these issues. However, the chances of his success in the next elections seem small as most Egyptians remain in doubt, especially when he is overshadowed by various rising stars amongst his opponents.
The nation has the right to choose whom they deem suitable
A few weeks after his official declaration as a candidate, Dr. Abdel Mon’im Abdul Fotouh has joined the race for the presidency with force. On his various meetings, interviews, and shuttle trips within Egypt and abroad, and in a brief meeting with The Majalla, Abdul Fotouh expounded upon his relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. Abdul Fotouh said that he cannot secede from the Brotherhood as he is a Muslim Brother and thus, serves the Brotherhood’s call.
The Majalla: So, why did you leave the Guidance Bureau? Or were you excluded from office?
I was not excluded from the Guidance Bureau. I gave my notice to the Bureau to leave more opportunities for a younger candidate.
Q: Does this mean that you represent the Brotherhood as a candidate at the presidential elections?
No, I do not represent them at the elections.
Q: Is it true that you called on the Muslim Brotherhood to cease covert activities?
Yes, as in the past, the main reason that provoked these activities was the security surveillance and harassments. Today, there is no need for such secrecy. We’d like the Brotherhood to be open to people.
Q: Why did you criticize the existence of a political party related to the Muslim Brotherhood?
I reject merging between political activities and those related to the Islamic call. This merger is to be expected in a Muslim Brotherhood-related political party. This would place the community under threat.
Q: What are your views concerning the secular parties running for presidency?
Every party has an ideology. There should be no reason why secular parties cannot exist. In fact, every party should have the opportunity to exist and thus, we’d have real freedoms.
Q: What do you think of the dread demonstrated by some people towards Article Two of the Egyptian Constitution, regarding Islamic Sharia Law?
Islamic Sharia is a main source for legislation and it is a constitutional reference for the Egyptian people. We have got to let the people choose as they please.
Q: Given your affiliation with the Brotherhood, do you desire a civil or a religious state?
The religious state is something out of the Middle Ages. Islam does not advocate a religious state with a leader that judges people according to their god. This is not acceptable.
Q: Is there a chance of you withdrawing from the presidential elections?
Only once I find someone who is better suited for the position of head of state.
Q: Do you not think that a candidate affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood could be a concern to Egyptian Copts?
On the contrary, a main condition associated with being a viable candidate is to be an advocate of religious reconciliation. The Egyptian people are religious in nature, regardless of them being Muslim or Christian.
Q: What are the main points on your agenda?
First and foremost, upholding the values of justice and freedom, in addition to focusing on education and academic research, and creating opportunities for Arab and foreign investments.
Q: In the event of you winning the elections, what are your thoughts concerning foreign policy and international relations?
I rely on a balanced foreign policy with Iran and Turkey, as well as with the Gulf States, while paying special attention to major Arab issues.
Interview conducted by Safaa Azab