Egypt: In a radical dictatorship who is a moderate?
Daikha Dridi - 17/09/2008
Actually, Abdelmonem Mahmoud is also known for his “radical moderate” views in the society and political debates that cross the brotherhood of the Muslim Brothers. He is part, as he states himself, of the “reforming voices” within the most important and popular political opposition organisation in Egypt. When, several months ago, the leaders of the Muslim Brothers, including their supreme guide, declared in public that Egypt could not be governed by a Copt or a woman, Abdelmonem Mahmoud was part of those who openly disagreed, stating that such positions were “not religiously justifiable and antidemocratic”.
This young man, who meets us in the office of one of the largest independent newspapers, El Doustour , where he works as general sub-editor, is no exception within Egypt’s world of political Islamism and what’s more he is no young blood of the Muslim Brothers, as some detractors like to say, entered to meet the needs of a positive mediatisation of the brotherhood. In fact, Abdelmonem Mahmoud fell in the pot of the Muslim Brothers as a child, and started to drink the potion at six, that is when young boys start going to the mosque. “My father and mother were not members of the Muslim Brothers, in fact no one in my family is up to this date. I became a member while growing up in my native city Alexandria, which is known for its conservatism, and by attending the mosque of my neighbourhood which, belonged to the Brotherhood”, says Abdelmonem Mahmoud with a calm voice and controlled gestures, sitting like a Buddha in the midst of a noisy writing room that is hysterically finishing off its articles. The son of a factory employee and of a housewife, Abdelmonem Mahmoud grew up in parallel with the Muslim Brothers, “to me the Brothers do not merely represent a partisan activity; they belong to my framework of life”. However, this young man who graduated in Law to then obtain his Journalism diploma, could never imagine his professional life within a partisan framework: “as a journalist I’m not interested in writing or working to represent the Muslim Brothers in the media. Here at El Doustour, I’m a journalist and not a Muslim Brother”.
Nothing too original in Egypt, where the Muslim Brothers are tortured by the regimes that have followed up, now for almost 60 years. Although the difference was that in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Muslim Brothers were a political movement with an armed wing that aimed at overthrowing the power through violence and political assassination. They murdered judges, police officers and even prime ministers. In 1954, one of them tried to kill the President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the midst of a public meeting but he failed. When they were atrociously tortured by Nasser, the Muslim Brothers paid the price decided by a blood thirsty dictator who was furious at having been their target. Their definitive renunciation of violence goes up to those years. Today, no serious person could accuse them of the contrary. Many steps have been taken towards the path of a sustainable and visible political moderation by the Brothers since the time of Nasser to today’s Brothers under Hosni Moubarak. Nevertheless, the police machine of the regime cheerfully keeps on imprisoning and torturing people. When there’s a lack of political opponents, it picks on the ordinary people, the poor more precisely. The blog of Abdelmonem Mahmoud, shows a video where he gives witness to anti-torture militants. An interesting detail, next to him, the other victims that came to witness have never been into politics.
This article is published in the framework of the
"Preventing Violent Radicalisation 2007"