Former Muslim Brotherhood deputy supreme guide Mohammed Habib said that despite the role the group is currently playing in post-revolution Egypt, the idea of rebellion does not constitute its ideology.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is a reformist and not a revolutionary movement, yet they took part in the Egyptian revolution on January 28, 2011,” Habib told Al Arabiya’s weekly show Noqtat Nezam (Point of Order).
The role of the Muslim Brotherhood following the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak’s regime was linked to their relationship with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Egypt’s de facto ruler.
“Both the Brotherhood and SCAF needed each other. SCAF wanted to create a political environment in which the revolutionaries are marginalized and in which popular support for the revolution is curbed, while the MB wanted to counter the influence of the formidable State Security Bureau through allying with the army,” he said.
Habib explained that this alliance had a negative impact on the revolution and had the Brotherhood not sided with SCAF, the revolution would have achieved its goals.
This alliance was also shown in the constitutional declaration that resulted from the March 2011 referendum in which more than 70 percent voted yes following massive Islamist mobilization.
“Those constitutional amendments are the main reason for the confusion that swept the political scene in Egypt,” he said.
According to Habib, this confusion is seen in the way the military council has now changed its mind about holding presidential elections before drafting the constitution.
“Now they want the constitution to come first and this is a real fix because either the constitution will be written hastily or the elections will have to be postponed.”
Regarding the Brotherhood’s decision to field a presidential candidate contrary to earlier statements, Habib said that the group’s second man Kahirat al-Shater, who was excluded for legal reasons, would have had better luck than Mohammed Mursi, the chairman of the Brotherhood’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party.
“Shater had the support of the Salafis and that is why he stood a better chance than Mursi, the current candidate.”
Habib stressed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party are one and the same thing.
“The Freedom and Justice Party would not enjoy this kind of influence if it were separated from the Brotherhood.”
Habib, however, objected to speculations that the relationship between a president from the Freedom and Justice Party and the Muslim Brotherhood would be similar to the one between Iran’s President and its Supreme Guide.
“He will be the president of all Egypt but he will be adopting the ideologies of the Brotherhood and will seek their advice.”
When asked about the role Khairat al-Shater played in choosing the Brotherhood’s current Supreme Guide Mohammed Badei, Habib said that Shater was in close contact with members of the Brotherhood Guidance Bureau while he was in jail and they used to consult him about all the group’s affairs.
“He was not really the one who chose the Supreme Guide, but he played a major part in assisting MB members in that. But, Shater played a major role in ousting me from the Guidance Bureau.”
On the relationship between the Brotherhood and the General Intelligence Directorate, Habib said that they were not on bad terms as was the case with State Security which handled the group’s file.
“I don’t know a lot about what happened in the intelligence back stage, but I know for a fact that senior Brotherhood members Saad al-Katatni [current Parliament Speaker] and Mohammed Mursi [head of the Freedom and Justice Party and the Brotherhood’s presidential nominee] met with former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman when he was vice president.”
According to Habib, Katatni and Mursi offered Suleiman that Brotherhood members leave Tahrir Square in return for endowing the group with a legitimate status and getting Khairat al-Shater and another senior Brotherhood member, Hassan Malek, out of jail.
“Young Muslim Brotherhood members rejected this deal and refused to leave the square so the group’s leadership allowed them to stay.”
Habib pointed out that the Brotherhood now is a lot different from the group that was established by Hassan al-Banna who he said was deeper and more far-sighted.
“At the time, the Brotherhood was more open to making alliances with different political factions which is not the case with the group’s attempts at monopolizing power whether in the parliament, the constitution, or the presidency.”
For Habib, the justifications the MB gave for increasing their candidates at parliamentary elections and fielding a presidential candidate were “weak” and “unconvincing.”
Habib said he was hoping that after the ouster of Mubarak, the Brotherhood would become the umbrella under which different political powers could unite.
“Unfortunately, ties are severed between the Brotherhood and other national factions while we are in dire need for unity in order to overcome internal and external challenges facing Egypt.”
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)