Muslim Brotherhood Supporters Attack Egyptian Novelist Alaa Al-Aswany in Paris

Attacked for his views by Muslim Brotherhood supporters waving the MB logo: the yellow card with the two-finger salute. Not in the middle east but in Eurabia’s founding father Charles de Gaulle’s France. The French are the core cause for the Eurabia situation in Europe.

Egyptian Novelist ‘Alaa Al-Aswany: ‘Egypt Is In A State Of War’; The June 30 Takeover By The Army ‘Cannot Be Called A Coup’

On October 16, 2013, a lecture by the international bestselling Egyptian novelist ‘Alaa Al-Aswany at the Arab World Institute in Paris was disrupted by Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters of deposed Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi, who threw objects at him and forced him to flee through a backstage exit. “They came to the lecture to take revenge,” Al-Aswany told the Associated Press. “As a novelist, I was prevented from speaking about literature in France… This is regrettable.” He added that the incident would show that the Muslim Brotherhood’s effort to depict itself as a victim “doesn’t really fit them.” The institute’s director said that a legal complaint would be filed against the perpetrators of the incident.[1]

Al-Aswany has been at the forefront of Egyptian denunciation of the dictatorship of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and of criticism of the abuses of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which ruled Egypt from February 2011 to the spring of the following year,[2] and of the authoritarianism of the Muslim Brotherhood. In an interview with the French online media outlet Mediapart, he justified the Egyptian military’s takeover of the country, explaining that Egypt is in “a new phase” of the revolution, this time against the MB, which he calls “fascist.”[3]

In a previous article translated by MEMRI,[4] written by Al-Aswany during Mursi’s presidency, he wrote that then-Egyptian president Muhammad Mursi’s rule was no different from Mubarak’s, and lamented that he had not kept his campaign promises – inter alia, purging the country’s security services of Mubarak loyalists in order to stop their policy of oppression and torture. He added that the MB General Guide’s office was very influential in governing the country, and urged all Egyptians to rally to the cause of rescuing Egypt from an MB takeover.

In his Mediapart interview, Al-Aswany stated that the June 30 takeover by the Egyptian army “cannot be called a coup,” and expressed optimism about the future of his country. However, he said, the Egyptian revolution is still ongoing, in order to build a democratic state. He added that there are still many important battles left to fight, such as establishing a minimum wage and a progressive taxation system, and changing how  the country’s attorney-general is elected.

The following are excerpts of Al-Aswany’s interview with Mediapart:
‘Alaa Al-Aswany (Image: Le Figaro, France, January 31, 2011)

“Egyptians Are Much More United Than They Once Were – Because They Feel Endangered By The Aggressiveness Of The MB”

“How do you explain the schism, or even the hatred, that has been felt in the Egyptian society since the dismissal of Muhammad Mursi?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: I do not agree with your term ‘schism.’ We have conducted a revolution for a democratic state in Egypt. Then we got lost along the way, especially because of the SCAF generals, and then the MB, whose record is even worse than the military’s. We simply realized that we had a group of fascists in power. This is what the Western countries did not understand, [and they] dealt with events in Egypt in a very unsatisfactory manner. We have indeed created a new phase of our revolution to rid ourselves of these fascists. So there is no schism: There is a conflict between a terrorist group and the Egyptian State, the State that comprises the army, the police, and the people. A schism would mean that the Egyptians are divided. This is not the case. Every day there are attacks against the soldiers, against the police, as was the case during the 1990s. Today, Egyptians are much more united than they once were, because they feel endangered by the aggressiveness of the MB.

“How is the term ‘fascism’ relevant to describing the Egyptian MB?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: Mr. Mursi was elected, and suddenly, on November 22, 2012, he abolished the democratic system. He gave what he called a ‘constitutional declaration,’ by which he abolished the constitution and placed his own decisions above the law. This statement, in my opinion, is fascism. It was as though Mursi was saying: ‘I used democracy to get elected, and now I am the Law.’ When [former Peruvian] president Alberto Fujimori did the same thing in Peru in 1992, it was perceived as a ‘presidential coup.’ That same day, the U.S. announced that it no longer considered Mr. Fujimori the legal president of Peru! But when Mursi did the same thing, no one even flinched. And then when demonstrators protested against this statement, they were killed. I find no other term to describe this but ‘fascism.’

“This constitutional declaration was indefensible from a democratic point of view. However, fascism is not only authoritarianism; it is indoctrination of society, the prospect of changing the people, not just the institutions. And if we take a democratic criterion such as freedom of the press, it seems that this was less threatened by Mursi than it is now – for example, after the closure of four television stations in September. What then are the other criteria that bring you to define the MB government as ‘Islamofascist?'”

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: Mr. Mursi tried to get rid of 3,500 judges, and began replacing them with judges from the MB! He appointed an attorney general, who is under his direct command. It was very clear at one point that if we went on like this, there would no longer be an Egyptian state. Egypt remained without a parliament for a year and a half from the time it was suspended by the Constitutional Court, so it was impossible to vote on the impeachment of the president. What could we do? This is why three young revolutionaries, one of whom had even voted for Mursi, launched the Tamarrud (“Rebellion”) movement, which led to the dismissal of Mursi.

“Recently, one of the three founders of this movement justified the use of military trials, including for civilians. Doesn’t this statement contradicting the criticisms that you yourself expressed against the thousands of military trials that have been held place since the revolution?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: My criticism was directed against the SCAF, which ruled the country before the arrival of Mursi. I do disagree with the statement from the Tamarrud founder that you mentioned. [However,] it is important to understand what happened up to Mursi’s dismissal. Tamarrud is a movement led by young people from the Kefaya [“Enough”] movement (of the anti-Mubarak Egyptian intelligentsia, active during the 2000s) But Kefaya’s leaders did not like the idea of collecting signatures to demand Mursi’s resignation, and these three young people started on their own to launch this petition campaign, which I supported from the outset because it was a democratic idea. We ended up collecting 22 million signatures demanding that Mursi go, which we intended to convey to the UN to be certified. Then we called on the signatories to take to the streets and show the world that we no longer wanted this gentleman [Mursi]. On television, [and] in my articles, I called on the people to mobilize against these fascists, telling the Egyptians that if they did not
demonstrate, it meant that they accepted that the MB would rule for years and years. And on June 30, we had more than 22 million people in the streets. Up until that time, the army was not part of the scene.

“Really? Tamarrud enjoyed no support in the state institutions, police, military or the secret services?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: If you want to write that, you are free to do so. I am trying to explain to you what happened. On June 30, everyone was in the street: the revolutionaries, the old regime supporters, and most of all the masses of Egyptians who do not belong to either of these two camps, who form what we call the ‘couch party.’ This was well beyond defiance of a president who is not managing the country well. We really had the feeling of being faced with ‘gangsters.’ Although we had no parliament, Mursi even discussed a project to change how the Suez Canal is administered.

“You know, for 40 years the MB has lied to the Egyptians, saying: ‘We are not armed, we are against violence.’ But there have been attacks against police stations, with RPGs. If the UMP and the Socialist Party [two main French political parties] carried out such attacks, what would you say? If that is not terrorism…

“This means that you link the MB with the attacks that took place in Egypt, in the Sinai?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: But it was they who made the connection! One of [the MB] leaders, Muhammad Beltagi (now in prison) said on television: ‘The minute Mursi returns to power, there will be no more attacks in the Sinai.’ How do you interpret this?

“What kind of counter-power is there today in Egypt, when media pluralism is threatened, no election date has been set, the constitutional process is not progressing according to the schedule promised by the army, and the MB is excluded from the political arena? Didn’t the military show that it could ignore the democratic process by holding a referendum on the constitution in March 2011, and then proclaiming its own ‘constitutional declaration’ without taking into account the outcome of this referendum? On June 30, the Egyptians did march, but it was Gen. Sisi who spoke in person on television, and it is the military that has shaped the current Egyptian regime. Can we therefore not consider that under Mursi there were more counter-powers than there are now under Sisi?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: In my opinion, clearly not. But that is the point of view of an Egyptian living in Egypt. Mr. Sisi was a member of the SCAF, responsible for the services. In the Egyptian army, you must know that you cannot say no to your superior. And at the time, it was Marshal [Muhammad Hussein] Tantawi who was the leader. The SCAF was responsible for the massacre of protesters during this period, and I was one of those who criticized the military council, so much so that there was a military trial against me, accusing me of damaging the image of the Egyptian army, a trial that is still ongoing. I am therefore the last person to applaud the army.

“But today, I am trying to explain what is happening in Egypt. Sisi warned Mursi, giving him a week to leave power as requested by the people, and [only] then had him arrested. We cannot say that this was a coup, because everything was done transparently. June 30, 2013 was a revolutionary wave supported by the army, that’s all. Ultimately, it makes me optimistic for the future.

“The MB No Longer Exists On The Political Level”

“So you are currently not worried about the situation in Egypt?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: I am, of course. Being optimistic does not mean that one is not worried. But I am optimistic, and I support what happened. This does not mean that the revolutionary struggle is over. I would say that it is just beginning. The MB is carrying out attacks, but on the political level they no longer exist.

“On the other hand, and this is the most important fight, there is a real battle to be fought in the committee responsible for drafting a constitution – not with the military, which wants to protect its interests and remains on the sidelines, but with the old regime, which does not want to change anything. The discourse of the former regime is as follows: ‘You were against Mubarak? He isn’t here anymore. You wanted to get rid of Mursi? Done. Now calm down, we have work to do.’

“The revolutionary camp wants a democratic state. But there are also other important conflicts, such as the minimum wage, a system of progressive taxation, or to make it so that the president can no longer choose the attorney general. All this, the old regime does not want to hear.

“You mentioned the ‘terrorism of the MB.’ But still, after June 30, the army’s repression of the MB was bloody; more than 1,000 people were killed by Egyptian security forces. Several thousand MB leaders, but also ordinary activists, were arrested and sentenced to prison, creating an atmosphere worthy of a witch hunt. Despite this, the protests of the revolutionary camp were very discreet, the government remained in office, and the National Salvation Front, with the exception of its spokesman who resigned, has supported the repression. How do you explain this silence and this support?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: There, you are not asking me a question, you are giving me your opinion.

“In other words, is it possible to build a democratic state on the massacre of demonstrators, as happened at Raba’a [Al-Adawiya mosque] in Cairo in August 2013?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: I will remind you that Mr. Mursi had 52 people killed in two days in Port Said. He gave specific instructions to the police, and then went on television to thank the police for its heroism and warn the inhabitants of Port Said that he would do whatever was necessary to restore order. They not only killed people who were protesting against Mursi, but they again fired on the crowd the next day at the funeral…

“Mr. [John] Kerry did not say a word. [Can it be that] the MB has rights, but those who protest against Mursi do not? Read the August 2 Amnesty International report that reveals how Mursi supporters resorted to torture. After the repression against the MB, Amnesty also criticized the army, so it is not an organization to be suspected of complacency towards the military!

“I could also cite the case of Muhammad Al-Gindi who was tortured to death by the police! (This young revolutionary, 28, a member of Hamdeen Sabahi’s [Egyptian] Popular Current, disappeared January 25, 2013 in Tahrir Square and was found dead a few days later.), Under Mursi, we counted 3,450 political arrests. How is it that we did not hear [any protest by] the Western governments? These governments supported Mubarak for 30 years, ignoring his crimes, torture, and corruption. The Egyptians felt that the same situation was recurring with Mursi. Even assuming that the MB is correct politically – which is not the case – does that mean that it has the right to commit violence?

“Such reasoning not only delegitimizes what has been done under Mursi, but also what has been done by the current government, notably at Raba’a…

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: There has been no real investigation into what happened at Raba’a. You are not asking questions, you are defending the MB. Your questions are opinions. Good, it allows me to specify the answers…

“There still were hundreds of dead at Raba’a on August 14!

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: Can you give me the names of these people? Al-Jazeera stated that there were up to 4,000 dead! For the murders committed by the SCAF, I can give you the names and addresses of all those killed. The Interior Ministry has always lied in Egypt, and it continues to do so. But the MB lies even more, and there has been no independent investigation. If I kill a French police officer, should I expect to receive flowers? I personally saw them shooting under my window. Must my little girl risk her life and have no rights because she is not ‘MB?’
I do not understand why we talk only of the MB’s rights, not of the rights of those arrested and tortured by it.

“The Difference Between The Most Peaceful Thinker Of Political Islam… And Osama Bin Laden Is A Matter Of Degree”

“Currently, it is the rights of the MB that are not respected. This does not erase what it has done and what you think Westerners have not reacted to, but it raises the question of what we can expect from the current regime…

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: To answer this, we must describe what is happening in Egypt. Egypt is in a state of war, and if we understand the situation differently, there will be misinterpretation. The Egyptian government that I have criticized and continue to criticize must continue to exist, so that we do not end up in a situation like Syria. We are in a situation where the Egyptian government is at war with the MB, which uses RPGs against police stations and kills soldiers. The state was not dealing with peaceful demonstrators, but with armed groups.

“The Egyptian government is therefore in a state of war. Even though I hate the term ‘war against terrorism’ coined by [former U.S. President] George Bush, it is a war of the state against armed individuals. It is as clear as the sun! Excessive use of force is certainly contrary to the law, but we are in wartime, not in ‘normal’ circumstances.

“That being said, I am in favor of investigations, including international ones, to find out what happened. I am against violence, I feel sad for all the victims, but I think that the state must continue to exist, so that my country does not become Syria or Somalia.

“Can you really build Egypt’s future without political Islam?

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: We are discovering that political Islam is all rolled up into one. The difference between the most peaceful thinker of political Islam – which is not Islam as a religion – and Osama bin Laden is a matter of degree, not of nature.

“Have you read the history of the MB? It killed and massacred people until 1965, before it was suppressed by Nasser. In the 1970s, it rebuilt the organization, saying that violence was a mistake, and presented itself as a peaceful democratic force. We discover now that it has been lying for 40 years.

“Thinking that you hold God’s truth easily leads to violence. If you are on the right and I am on the left, I know that sometimes you are right, and you know that the Marxist analysis helps to understand certain processes. If you believe that you hold the word of God and that I am against you, I am an enemy whom you can kill, not an adversary whom you must face.

“Yet, in Turkey or Tunisia, we have examples of a moderate political Islam.

‘Alaa Al-Aswany: Who killed Chokri Belaïd[5] You think Mr. Erdogan’s a democrat? I think we should wait a bit before making that judgment.

Some Salafi parties such as the Al-Nour party offer a political Islam and yet are part of the transition process.

‘Alaa Al-Aswany: Under Mubarak, the Salafis were always supported by state security, to counterbalance the MB. The SCAF were allied with them. [Then] they [became] partners of the MB, including at the time of the constitutional declaration, until they discovered that [the MB] behaved like fascists. There is a great question. Why did they change sides? It is difficult to know what they want.

“But I am obviously against those who forbid saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to Christians and who think it is fair to marry 14-year-old girls. I consider them less as a political party than as people working for Saudi Arabia. To understand their position switch, we must look towards Saudi Arabia.

“Journalist: [Saudi Arabia] supports the current authorities to the tune of $5 billion…

“‘Alaa Al-Aswany: There is an economic crisis in Egypt. [After all,] Germany paid for Greece. I’m not saying that the Saudi royal family has become revolutionary. The Egyptian revolution is a threat to all the kingdoms of the Gulf, but we must not forget that the MB built itself in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s. This country believed it was feeding a cat and ended up with a tiger. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are against the MB and are not pro-democracy.

“It is not because the MB proved to be fascist that [Saudi Arabia] supported the overthrow of Mursi, but because it had become too dangerous. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are both against the MB and against the revolution. Today, they are helping Egypt, but I do not think it will continue, because a revolutionary government in Egypt will be another threat to these kingdoms.”

[1] Associated Press, October 18, 2013.

[2] On Al-Aswany’s criticism of the SCAF, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3740, Egyptian Author Alaa Al-Aswany Criticizes the Military for Undermining the Achievements of the Revolution in Egypt, April 5, 2011.

[3] Mediapart (France), October 16, 2013. Interview by Pierre Puchot and Joseph Confavreux.

[5] A Tunisian secular and leftist opposition leader who was a vocal critic of the Ben Ali regime prior to the 2011 Tunisian revolution and also of the current Islamist-led Tunisian government. On 6 February 2013 he was gunned down in front of his home in the Al-Menzah suburb of Tunis. Tunisia’s ruling Al-Nahda movement, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, was accused of being politically responsible for his assassination.

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