Yesterday I had the unique opportunity to visit the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Muqattam area of Cairo. I interviewed their official spokesman, Mahmoud Ghozlan about a recent document of principles agreed upon by the Brotherhood and the leadership of the Evangelical Churches of Egypt.
It is a very interesting document, and I hope to share a full article about it shortly. For now, I simply wanted to share some pictures of the building as well as brief reflections from the visit.
This final picture is from the reception area, displaying the nine ‘General Guides’ in Muslim Brotherhood history. Though each of these figures deserves further research, here simply I present their names, from left to right in the picture:
Hassan al-Banna (1928-1949)
Hassan al-Hudaybi (1949-1972)
Omar al-Tilmisani (1972-1986)
Muhammad Hamed Abu al-Nasr (1986-1996)
Mustafa al-Mashour (1996-2002)
Muhammad al-Ma’moun al-Hudaybi (2002-2004)
Muhammad Hilal (uncertain)
Muhammad Mehdi Akef (2004-2010)
Muhammad Badie (2010-present)
Our discussion centered on the document of principles establishing citizenship and religious freedom as common values. Still, I also gained some insight into the current political crisis between the Brotherhood, the military council, and liberal parties. Most interesting was the change in demeanor as we navigated certain topics.
It is not useful to read too much into the following, but when Ghozlan justified the Brotherhood for going back on an earlier pledge not to field a presidential candidate, his manner was humble and seeking an audience. He expressed that the media was engaged in deliberate mischaracterization of the group and its intentions, and appeared hopeful his story would be carried faithfully.
In another setting, I hope to, but while I find his explanations reasonable, I stated that for this article in particular I was not seeking political justification, but religious. If Egyptian Christians wish to have hope in the words of this document, how should they respond now that the Brotherhood has gone back on its word not to field a presidential candidate?
I was keen to not be accusatory, but to seek their mindset.
Strangely, his attitude changed. He immediately straightened and delivered justification from the life of Muhammad. It was no longer an invitation to see their political condition sympathetically, but a pronouncement of their non-culpability in terms of religion. I felt, hopefully wrongly, that he instinctively needed to assert/defend the moral high ground of Islam, or at least of their political Islam.
I had the distinct impression the group feels vulnerable and defensive. Indeed, it appears all are against them these days. Could it also be their conscience is pricked, underneath a Machiavellian exterior?
In the media, at least, it seems this is true of many in the organization, despite the official choice of the majority to go against their pledge.
It may be politically expedient and even necessary for the good of all Egypt. But as Muslims, is it right?
Ghozlan gave justification, even if the Christian or merely moral person might cringe – to be written about shortly. I think the pulse of general Egyptian morality will not permit it, though, no matter what presidential choice they make in the end.
Update: The article is still in process, but here is the full text and list of signatories to the agreement. Please click here.
- Brotherhood Revisionism on Maspero and Transitional Governance? – March 12, 2012
- Christmas with the Brotherhood – January 10, 2012
- Disappointment with the Brotherhood – December 6, 2011
- Conventional Wisdom and the Brotherhood – June 11, 2011
- Egyptian Demonstrations and the Muslim Brotherhood – February 11, 2011