Egypt after Mubarak: Talking to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
May 13 2011 4:08 PM

"It Is a Shame for America To Be Afraid of Islam"

An interview with a senior member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Muslim Brotherhood spokespersons Essam el-Arian (center) and Mohammed Mursi (right). Click image to expand.
Essam El-Erian, center, of the Muslim Brotherhood

Banned for years under President Hosni Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood now functions openly in Egypt and is expected to win a sizable bloc of seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Washington Post senior associate editor Lally Weymouth interviewed Essam El-Erian, a physician and senior member of the brotherhood's ruling guidance council, in the organization's new $11 million headquarters on May 4. Following are excerpts from their talk.

L.W.: What did you think of the killing of Osama bin Laden?

E.E.: For us, Osama Bin Laden never represented Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion. Violent groups are a minority among Islamic groups. ... Even though it was war, it didn't give America the right to kill a person while the forces could capture him.

L.W.: So Bin Laden shouldn't have been killed?

E.E.: To be brought to justice, this would have been better for America. ... America committed some mistakes. First, killing him instead of arresting him. Second, they violated the sovereignty of Pakistan, putting the president and the Pakistani government in a critical situation. I criticize Bin Laden and al-Qaida. [Pakistan] is a corrupted regime. But we are talking about the state, not the regime. This gives an important message to others—to Saudi Arabia and all your allies—that they are not trusted.

L.W.: The Muslim Brotherhood has had many problems in Egypt during the past 30 years. A lot of your members—including yourself—have been put in jail. You have come a long way to have this vast headquarters now. Two years ago, this would not have been allowed.

E.E.: Yes, but this change was brought about by Egyptians. Because for the last two centuries, this region has been under interference from others on the outside.

L.W.: Mubarak did not occupy the country.


E.E.: Yes. He was Egyptian. This was an internal occupation. Who was supporting Mubarak? Not the army only. The army got rid of him. The main support to Mubarak was from the U.S.

L.W.: You think the army got rid of him?

E.E.: Yes, after they saw millions of people in the streets. ... Your administration tried to give him a shelter as they do now with [Libya's Muammar] Qaddafi and [Yemen's Ali Abdullah] Saleh.

L.W.: Was it the power of the people or the power of the mosques?

E.E.: This revolution had many steps to it. ... I was arrested myself before the assassination of [Anwar] Sadat for one year.

We were all arrested and released after Sadat's assassination. Then I became a member of the parliament from 1987 to 1990. Then I was arrested again and tried before a military court and jailed for five years. And during the last seven years, I was arrested five times. Annually I was arrested.

L.W.: Were you put in jail each time or just arrested?

E.E.: Yes, put in jail. ... The last time I was arrested was during the revolution. ... Fifty-eight hours in jail. The revolution did not start on Jan. 25. We had many battles—about the independence of the judiciary and about free and fair elections. We reached this point, and they launched a new campaign on Facebook, that is true.

L.W.: People say the army is sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

E.E.: The army is a professional army, a neutral army. The army cannot take the responsibility for this country and for shooting people. The army is keen to transfer power to the people after free and fair elections. That is very important—to have an army in Egypt that supports democracy. This is a new army—those colleagues of [former President Gamal Abdel] Nasser's are dead, and those who participated in the October War [in 1973] are mostly gone. This is a new army not spoiled by politics, not having dreams of catching power. ... Many of them studied in the U.S., talked with your officials and your think tanks—they are well educated. They are nationalists—they have nothing to do with politics. From the start, they stated that they reject any call to keep power or stay for a long time.

L.W.: Will the Muslim Brotherhood win the next election because it is so organized?

E.E.: The next election must represent all political factions, even weak groups. We as the Muslim Brotherhood are keen to have a coalition to go to the elections together to have a parliament that represents all Egyptians, not only powerful groups. All Egyptians must be represented—Muslims, Coptics, leftists, liberalists, nationalists, Islamists—all must be there to have a neutral committee to write the constitution. This is very important for a real democracy.

L.W.: Do you think the Muslim Brotherhood will have the largest bloc in the parliament?

E.E.: The last election [that] was semi-free, semi-fair, in 2005, we gained 20 percent of the seats. In the next election, we are not targeting the majority at all. So we will nominate between 45 to 50 percent. ... I think it would be fair to gain 30 percent in a free and fair election.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?