93 years old, this great intellectual is still passionate to talk about the current situation in Egypt. Youngest brother of Hassan Al Banna and talking out of great respect about his brother, Gamal his ideas are completely different.
In the midst of his impressive collection of books reaching up to the ceiling, Al Banna talked about Egypt after the Revolution, women’s rights, and had a message to the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The situation is very bad.”
Al Banna is a strong advocator of individual freedoms. In his last interview with Arab-West Report interns, he mentioned that "the individual needs to have complete freedom to interpret scriptures as one wishes". We asked him how this currently goes along with the needs of society and the stalemate of a leader and a mass.
Al Banna: “The mistake of the Revolution is that there is no room for individual freedom. The politics of the leader is against that of the mass. The situation is very bad. Before the Muslim Brotherhood took charge it was bad, but now it is even worse. The minds of the people are not developed. They way of thinking is bourgeois, not revolutionary. They are professors and lawyers whose understanding is bourgeois. We are now seeing a reaction to the revolution and this revolution is far from a traditional revolution. People are disappointed and the leader is a tyrant. People want the regime down.”
“They need to make a new constitution, but instead they fix the old.”
“Mursi is a problem, he is not a new leader. They have to make a new constitution, but instead they fixed the old,” Al-Banna mentions. He continues that the only party ready is the Muslim Brotherhood. The other parties aren’t. So by fixing the old constitution, it won’t create a situation in which other parties can be ready.
“The Muslim Brotherhood wants to get the authority before anybody else; that is why they fix the constitution and play the card of Islam. The thing is that we all want to make a new constitution, but the Muslim Brotherhood is making this conflict now and they are the ones marketing their view,” he clarifies. “In the end the Muslim Brotherhood will win. A new election will be won by the Muslim Brotherhood. 70%-80% is in favor of them. The other parties are less than 40%. With these elections, I expect Mursi to show up.”
“The President now does not have any authority when it comes to the military budget. He cannot announce a war before taking permission of the military. The decisions concerning the military budget need to be in public—that is what democracy is about.”
The decree of Mursi
Right now many Egyptians are protesting against the decree Mursi announced last Thursday, November 22, what do you think about this?
“This was a big error. All of his relations (all Egyptians and the judiciary) did not want this announcement. Now, the judges are separated, but the majority does not want this,” Al-Banna answers.
“Yes, people are very angry. The Muslim Brotherhood will win though, they are organized.” Protests have been going on now for more than a week, what do you think will happen in the end? “People will find the Muslim Brotherhood in these protests and for the first time I think that Mursi is not safe.”
Role of the Muslim Brothers: From opposition to leading role
As the Muslim Brotherhood has always been the opposition of any regime here in Egypt and operating underground, I wonder, what do you think of them leading the country?
“Hard. It is hard for them because they make mistakes. And they will not, because of the announcement about the Constitution is wrong. This time they will not escape into exile. The Muslim Brotherhood is strong, but weak to lead Egypt.”
Al-Banna elaborates briefly on some mistakes: “It starts with the decree now, but besides that they do not listen to anyone. They do not have any expertise in leading and have been underground for a long time. The Revolution came as a surprise and they were eager to catch the authority. True democracy is not in their belief. To conclude, they have no idea about sharī'ah. Their opinion about sharī'ah differs from the Salafīs, it cannot be implemented in both ways.”
Women, the hijab, and rights after the Revolution
In his previous interview with the Arab-West Report interns, al-Banna mentioned that in his view women are wearing a hijab because they do not have the time to visit the hairdresser. In his opinion wearing the hijab, or any other form of veiling, is not necessary and should therefore be a personal choice. Nowadays, when walking in the street and riding the women’s cart of the metro, a big group of young women wearing the hijab can be noticed. Al-Banna’s response is short: “these young women want to perfect. But again, the hijab, mish lazem (do not have to).”
Do you see a change of women’s rights after the Revolution?
“Women do not have a chance.” Why? “Because of the Salafīs—they make women depressed. Furthermore there is a backlash in the participation of women after the Revolution. All of them [the Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice Party, and the Salafīs] are bad for women. They want the women to wear the hijab and to let them stay at home.”
But we have some examples of women being very active in the Freedom and Justice Party, for example Azza el Garf, Dina Zakaria and the youngest Constituent Assembly member, Hafsa Atef Shoman.
“Women in the Muslim Brotherhood (sisterhood) and the Freedom and Justice Party can be seen as décor. In the end they all must obey the murshid (the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammed Badi’).”
Place of Islam in the society
Referring to his last interview with Arab-West Report, Al-Banna "calls for an Islam that evolves with the times and stays abreast of developments, so that religion continues to be a relevant and potent force within the daily life of both the individual and society".
Is Islam in the right place in society here in Egypt?
“Women cannot do anything without men, like in Saudi Arabia. This is the Islam in the view of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafīs. [referring to the Salafīs] Islam in the Qur'an is different and they do not consult the Qur'an. They only obey the Shaykh. In the end we all individually have the tools, these tools can be found in Qur'an, you can find everything in the Qur'an.”
Message to the Muslim Brotherhood
“Do not work with politics!” al-Banna says loud and in English.
“I know this is already too late to mention, but this is also something that my brother Hassan al Banna said. They should go back to teaching people.”