In their October 6 apartment in the Egyptian capital Cairo, Sameh Eid and his wife Ezzat Afifi say they no longer support the Muslim Brotherhood after “awakening to the truths” behind the now banned political organization.
Eid used to be one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood but told Al Arabiya it was not by choice. His father used to be part of the group and his grooming by the Muslim Brotherhood began when he was still in middle school.
Afifi was part of the Muslim Sisterhood, the female-wing of the group and joined when she was 19-years-old. She found it hard at first to leave the group once her husband had deserted the brotherhood but found that the group had pressured her more than she could bare.
Below is Al Arabiya’s summarized interview with the couple:
When did you resign from the Muslim Brotherhood?
I resigned from the organization in 2000 after an intellectual review that lasted for years. I presented the papers in 1999 but the organization refused these reviews and I had to resign. I wrote about the reasons of my departure in my book entitled “Papers in self-criticism of the present and future of the Muslim Brotherhood”. I gave my wife the book to read and I encouraged her to continue her membership with them without any pressure.
What was your rank at the time?
There were seven ranks in the organization (a sympathizer, a supporter and a regular), one associate, two associate, an active worker, and a captain. After the ranking file broke out in 2013, the titles changed. I was an active worker which gave me the right to vote and run for a position within the organization or governorate.
So you pledged allegiance then?
Yes, I did. It’s a pledge of obedience and commitment to the secrets of the Muslim Brotherhood. I read the Quranic verse that includes allegiance under the tree.
What about your wife?
I gave her the freedom of choice. I married her while she was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and so was I. She knows that I withdrew because of my reservations about the Muslim Brotherhood. I told her about my decision and that she was free to be with them if she wishes. But the Muslim Brotherhood exempted her.
The wife added: “After my husband’s resignation, the Muslim Brotherhood kicked me out. I was very sad because I believed that I lived in the ideal society of the Brotherhood and that I will find monsters in the outside world around me. After leaving the Brotherhood I discovered that I was in a prison with a group of hypocrites and I found that people are very religious in nature. I want to say that I regret every moment and every second I spent with the Muslim Brotherhood, I regret it very deeply., I lost my youth. I wasted my time and my capacities on empty words.
What is your university specialty?
I graduated from the Education Faculty with a specialty in French, I am currently working as a French teacher, and I have a diploma in intellectual disability.
Do you think that if you were a Muslim Brotherhood member, you could have been more successful in the practical and professional context?
Exactly, I was putting a different path for myself, but I object to giving them the label of Muslim. Because it’s only a name. They do not represent Islam.
What was your role in the organization?
At the university our primary role was to present a weekly report on what happened in the department and how many girls were recruited into the organization.
We distribute brochures and pamphlets, we invited girls to parties and we collected donations for Palestine and Bosnia and Herzegovina, all of this was done at the university.
After graduating from the university, I started working at the level of the region. It was completely different. We worked on a larger age group, mothers and young girls to teach them the Koran at the mosques. We have formed a wedding band so that the ceremony could be Islamic. We said that the bride should rejoice so we created a group of young girls and taught them to sing and perform henna rites, free of any financial refund. We did that so that we can penetrate society. We even gave away free gifts.
What were the dress codes for the Muslim Sisterhood?
It was of course the long black Abaya along with the scarf, usually in dark colors. Now and despite my age I started wearing Fuchsia and red. I rebelled against everything even in my dress code.
There were the long socks, the gloves and the long head scarf. But the niqab (full face veil) was absolutely forbidden. Some members wanted to put it on but they were prohibited.
Why was the niqab forbidden?
The husband replies: Just like the men couldn’t grow a beard, women couldn’t wear the niqab. It was in order to distinguish between ourselves and the Salafist movement. It also gave us freedom of mobility. This requirement wasn’t imposed in small villages because of the difference in the security dimension.
In 2013 we saw violent confrontations at Cairo University. How can you comment on the Brotherhood’s requirement for women?
In 1991, it was reported that one of the officers had banned the niqab and insulted the women. An official of the organization was doing time in prison and he gave us permission to attack and retaliation against the security apparatus. We ambushed them in Damanhur during a fake manifestation we organized.
We bought sticks and cars full of stones and put them in the streets. We chose a strategic square surrounded by a large number of schools and governmental departments. We agreed to start at 2 pm when students and officials got out. We held a fake demonstration where we would collide and attack the security with sticks and stones. The demonstration was due to last for an hour and 8 minutes exactly. Security services would be to blame for the casualties in the groups of civilians and students. The plan worked perfectly and 13 security men were injured. We withdrew very quickly and a large group of civilians were arrested.
The security forces were furious with the Muslim Brotherhood since it changed tactics. The latter apologized and told them that the matter was planned by leaders in prison.
What was the role of women in this demonstration?
The demonstration took place inside the Faculty of Education while Security forces surrounded the Faculty of Education and literature. Demonstrations broke out and the university opened the back doors for the female students so that the security forces arrested the demonstrators from the Muslim Brotherhood. The sisters stopped to protect the students and prevent any intrusion and arrest. They didn’t withdraw until they were sure the demonstrators had their sticks with them and stood next to the gates of the Faculty. When we were ordered to withdraw, we did not go out from the back, but from the front doors to protect them. That’s when we began to throw stones. Naturally we blocked all exists point to the security forces and the sisters struggled a lot.
How do you see the involvement of women in such demonstrations, despite the fact that the Islamic and religious teachings say otherwise?
They do not care. In the municipal elections, we used to go down to the street and walk side by side with men and hear inappropriate words.
What did you study during your meetings?
For us women, we studied Zaynab al-Ghazali’s book entitled “Days of my Life” and how she suffered from torture. We believed in her. We studied Mustafa Mashhour’s book “leadership and solider” and Hassan al Bana’s letters to women. We studied the interpretation of the Koran, specifically Surat (Al-Borouj). The sessions did not include recitation or reading the Koran. Even during studying the biography of the Prophet, we only focused on the dynamic part.
The husband adds: “We studied the dynamic approach by Mounir Ghadhban who establishes the ideas of the organization through the biography of the Prophet. He has a book entitled “political assassinations in the biography of the Prophet”. For example, the allegiance for Aqaba concluded that they chose 12 out of 72 people which is the policy adopted by the organization. One for every six individuals in the so-called brotherhood family. We studied the idea of the dynamic approach along with the idea of theorization on the Prophet’s biography and the Brotherhood.
How was the monthly meeting?
We had a monthly. We chose the house and the sisters would prepare the food. The meeting would start from the afternoon until after Maghreb. We would read the Koran, discuss the prophet’s biography and before the Maghreb prayer we would hold each other’s hands then pray and break the fast. After dinner we would go our down directions. During the university years we would go to pray together. They always insisted on the importance of obedience during these meetings.
What was your rank?
I was not aware of the rank system at the time, because at the university, there were public meetings and secret meetings.
I was with my cousin and she was in the second level. The ranks are taken according to the position of the husband himself in the organization. After my engagement with Sameh I started attending small meetings, some of which were with the engineer Houssem Hamid god rest his soul and Abdel Fattah Sharif. None of the other sisters attended these meetings. So I engaged in special affairs until I got married and watched them closely.
What did you recite at these meetings?
“Oh God, these hearts have agreed on your love and your obedience. We are united to apply your Sharia. Guide our ways, fill us with your light and revive us with your knowledge. Grant us the pleasure of saying your name. The images of the Muslim Brotherhood in all parts of the world recall “our hands are tightly bound together in the recitation of the prayers”.