by Marc INNARO. Against the wishes of the Brotherhood, Moneim Aboul Fotouh decided to run as an independent candidate to the presidential elections, to be held by the end of June. Interview with Moneim Aboul Abdel Fotouh
3000 volunteers are ready to work with him and support him in his final rush of the presidential race. Aboul Fotouh's complex political career begins at the end of the ’60, with the Sudents' Unione at the University of Cairo, Faculty of Medicine. In 1975 , he became a member of a small organization linked to the Muslim Brothers . In the same years, he started his opposit ion to the power . At that time, Anwar Sadat was the President. Under Mubarak regime he spent long years in jail. In 1996 he was arrested for the first time. The last arrest was in 2009. After he spent many years being one of the leaders of the executive branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh decided to leave: nobody accepted his demands for a reorganization of the movement.
What would be your priority in case you were elected as President of Egypt?
First, deepening the freedom. Our people have been deprived of freedom and democracy for so much time. Secondly: deepening judicial system which has been severely injured. Third: increase educational and scientific system. There is no development without freedom, without justice, without learning. If you want to make a country developed and modern, you should depend on these three corners. In the West, you should understand that Egypt is a Muslim country since 14 centuries. Many fear that Egypt could become an Islamic State. No. It is already an Islamic State since 14 centuries. Everything will continue as it is: a Republic, with a Constitution, a Parliament. But now it will be honest and transparent. Under Mubarak, the Parliament existed too, but it was not chosen through free elections. You should also know that our brothers, the Christians, have also taken part in building our Islamic civilization, which was built also by them. The base of our rights and duties is the citizenship, not the religion. Anyone, Muslim or Christian, man or woman, has the same rights. Efficiency must be the only criteria to be part of the new Egyptian State.
So, every religious minority should have the same rights…
Absolutely the same. Even the non-believer must have the same rights and duties. He is just an Egyptian citizen. The State that we want must be a State that protects its citizens in their religion. Otherwise, if I oblige someone to be Muslim or to be Christian, I make this person another hypocrite.
Why did you put your candidacy to the presidential elections, even if the Muslim Brothers didn’t endorse your candidacy?
I took part in this decision not to have an official candidate of the Brotherhood, because the group should continue to be a pressure group, calling for God, for educating people to the religion, pushing for awareness of freedom and justice, and so on. The competition for power must go through the party (Freedom and Justice) or through individuals. In both cases, Muslim Brotherhood must not have any relation with those practicing politics; the party must be separated from the group. Anyway, the experiment is new, through the last 30 years our group used to do both, so we still need time until we reach a full separation between the group and the political party. The individual could be a member of the group, but playing his political agenda only through the party, or as an independent like me. The duties of the group have no relation with the Party.
Is it a well planned strategy in order to have anyway an Islamic candidate to the Presidency, although officially the Brotherhood says that there will not be any official candidate?
No tricks. We must reach the power only through transparent, legal means, through the poll boxes. If the way is legal, it is welcome by anyone. If someone says that this is a manoeuvre, it is not acceptable for me, because all the political groups in Egypt know very well that Dr. Aboul Fotouh is not the kind of person to play here and there with tricks. My candidacy is aimed exclusively at serving the State.
In your opinion, how can Islam and modernity can live together in Egypt?
Modernity is a very important aspect of Islam. Islam encourages modernity, Islam encourages any Muslim to go ahead, to make treasure of the previous experience of any other human being, whatever Muslim, non-Muslim, communist... Any Muslim has the duty to look around to find anything useful for himself. We always say: “Everywhere you have a benefit for the people, that is Islam”. If an airplane is useful for the people, that airplane is also Islam. If the medicine is good, if it is healthy for the people, this is Islam. If art or music are good for the human beings, they are Islam. If we think about medieval Europe, we see that you were obliged to make revolutions to get rid of the influence of the Church. Instead, all over our history in Islam, we never had a religious State. Always our State has been a civil one, partially secular. Islam never interferes in the details of the political, economic and social life, but only on the main principles. Like in politics. There are some principles, like in a Constitution. The ruler must be elected by the people. But Islam doesn’t state who should be elected, how and for how long. The ruler must be respected and obeyed by the people. But the ruler can also be removed by the people. These are principles commonly accepted by everybody. But Islam doesn’t state if a State must be a kingdom or a republic. Those are details decided by the people itself. Nobody has the right to say that Islam prefers that or the other kind of State. Even the laws of Shari’ah must pass through the Parliament. The Parliament may accept or refuse, under the respect only of the Constitutional Court, and not of a sheikh or an ulema. Of course, sheikhs have to advise, but they cannot control, they cannot oblige anybody. That is the reason why I say that what happens to women in Iran is completely wrong. But it is wrong also what happens to women in France. In Iran they oblige women to wear the hijab. In France they obliged women to put off hijab. And it is wrong for the Saudi Arabia to forbid women the right of driving a car. These are wrong interpretations of Islam, this is clearly against human individual freedom. When you oblige a man or a woman to do anything, under so-called Islamic rules, you will oblige people to be hypocrite. The Mubarak regime has been using an Islamic current to scare the people of Islam, exclusively for its own benefits and interests. You can also see now someone using the Salafis to make people afraid of Islam. The Western principles towards human rights, freedom, justice are almost the same as the Islamic principles. If I ask you what is your opinion about individual freedom, where is the end of the individual freedom, you answer: “When my freedom clashes with others’ freedom”. This is the same as in Islam. Islam is preventing not only the material oppression, but also the moral oppression. Islam is against obliging a woman to wear hijab, if this is harming her in her feelings, in her dignity. I hope that our friends in the West understand Islam as it is, from the moderate and tolerant mainstream, and not from the extremists here and there. You know what happened to me even recently? I was refused the visa by the USA embassy to visit my daughter in America. But I also discovered that at the same time the visa had been given to some extremist people. As if the USA and some European countries wanted to distort the image of Islam, giving the impression that Islam is very dangerous. I highly respect the Western peoples: they have the same principles as we have.
What do you think Egypt will be in 2015?
Egypt will be democratic, moderate, tolerant, a very strong country. The strength of Egypt is in the interest, in the benefit of everybody. Egypt is the centre of Arab and Islamic world. When Egypt becomes a developed country, moderate, democratic, this will be for your benefit in Europe. Also, under democracy, violence and terrorism will stop completely. Violence is absence of freedom, absence of democracy, ignorance, lack of development. That’s the reason why when Egypt becomes a real democracy, it will be of great benefit also for you.
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