Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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In interview with Swiss magazine International Diplomat: Ali highlights interest in Islamist groups, finds fault with European approach to Islamists

Wednesday 14/December/2022 - 07:57 PM
The Reference

 Talk about freedoms in a given country cannot be fruitful without knowledge of the fateful battles this country faces.

Egypt faced the prospect of falling apart after January 2012.

There is an urgent need for striking a balance between the prevalent culture in society and human rights issues.

Countries cannot turn into mere copies of each other.

Readers do not usually have the chance to meet a man with multiple skills every day.

Let's briefly say that this is a writer and a journalist who became a member of the former Egyptian parliament. He is a researcher specialized in Islamist movements. He has many books in this field in his name.

He is also the founding director of the Centre for Middle East Studies in Paris, as well as the Arab Press Centre, not to mention being the editor-in-chief of the Egyptian daily, al-Bawaba, and the al-Bawaba News website.

We had the opportunity to meet him in Paris, where – despite his busy schedule – he gave us enough time to answer our questions.

Dr Ali: Can you tell us about your intellectual career?

I started my work as a journalist in 1978 in al-Ahali newspaper. At that time, the terrorists had carried out the assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat in 1981. I have started paying attention to the ideas of Islamists since that date. I studied their history and the roots of groups similar to them in Islamic history. This made me specialize in this field, namely the study of terrorism and political Islamist movements. I established the Arab Centre for Research and Studies in Egypt. The centre is specialized in the study of terrorism. I then established a newspaper and al-Bawaba News website. I have written 20 books on the history and ideas of those groups, including: The Secret Files of the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda: 20 Years and the Invasion Continues, Osama bin Laden: The Ghost Created by America, and Islam and Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Three of my books have been translated into French, namely The State of the Brotherhood, ISIS in a Troubled Region, and the Satanic Ideas of the Brotherhood. These books were published by Éditions L'Harmattan. I was elected a member of the Egyptian parliament in 2015. I then established the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies in Paris, Le Dialogue for the dialogue between the East and the West.

You are a man who has several talents. You run a large media group in your country. When we talk about journalism, we mainly think about freedom of the press. What about the press, the media and freedom of expression in your country?

Egypt is a country that faced the prospect of falling apart and disintegrating after the events of January 2011. It then faced regionally and internationally supported terrorism after June 2013. Over 3,500 policemen and army personnel fell victim to this wave of terrorism. Dozens of civilians, both Muslims and Christians, also fell victim to more than 1,200 terrorist operations financially and morally supported by regional and international countries. The Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS stood behind these operations.

One can talk about freedom of speech successfully, only by having full information about this period. In Some European countries, France, for example, a number of limited operations prompted the authorities to pass an emergency and terrorism law. Egypt fought terrorism on behalf of the world. We fought this battle with honour and paid for it with our blood and the lives of our sons. Terrorism would have knocked on the doors of Europe with hammers of iron and fire, if we had not done this. Of course, the work in the field of journalism and media at this stage was organized in accordance with the great battle waged by a society that had suffered from two successive revolutions, and from a devastating conflict with the forces of terrorism and extremism. The parliament enacted laws that preserved national security and the unity of society from the spread of rumours and incitement against the army, police and Coptic Christians. Some considered this to be a restriction on the freedom of information and the press. What about now, after the nightmare of terrorism that gripped Egyptians for ten years is over? We have started the National Dialogue. At the heart of this dialogue, is opening the way for freedom of the press and the media, and everyone (all political forces) has begun to talk freely and develop future visions for a free media and a free press.

Egypt has recently been criticized by the international community, especially by the European Parliament, for not lifting the state of emergency in force since 2017. Why do you think the Egyptian authorities have not done so yet?

The European Parliament made a mistake by making this accusation. The state of emergency was already lifted in Egypt on October 25, 2020. Nonetheless, the European Parliament draws its information from the Muslim Brotherhood which wages a fierce war against Egypt and the Egyptians in an attempt to return to power. This was why it could not get accurate information. The criticism of the European Parliament also came at a strange time, after Egypt succeeded in organizing the climate conference and invited the attention of the world. The Brotherhood and its allies tried to thwart the conference by calling for demonstrations on November 11. The call for the demonstrations fell flat. The Brotherhood then tried to divert attention from the conference and the decisions it took to help developing countries and compensate them for the toxic and harmful emissions caused by rich countries by raising the issue of the so-called 'Prisoners of Conscience'. It put up names and held press conferences inside the conference, but all this did not come to an end. Even the heads of state, such as the US president, the British prime minister, and the German Chancellor who echoed the group's words, understand the Egyptian position. The Brotherhood's moves failed to thwart the conference. The Brotherhood then started playing its game with the European Parliament, which echoed their allegations without checking any of them. All these allegations are inaccurate, or at least contrary to what happens now in the National Dialogue in Egypt.

You are interested in two main issues: terrorism and human rights. Can you explain to us the reasons for this?

I am interested in the issue of terrorism first, second and third. This is the issue of all times. Some organizations try to rob the world of all its values and civilizations, in a desperate attempt to bring us thousands of years back. It is this danger that threatens European societies more than it threatens us. Some of these societies treat terrorists and their organizations as freedom fighters, especially those who adopt the taqiyya style. They hide the terrorist part of them under the cloak of ideas that are nothing less than an act of terrorism in something. The Brotherhood, whose international organization spreads intensively in Europe, is no less dangerous than ISIS, if not more dangerous than it. It plans to seize Europe within a quarter of a century from now by overthrowing the pillars of civil society, creating closed ghettos that apply their own law among those societies, as well as the intensive spread of its ideas among European Youth, which is why I am interested in this issue.

As for human rights, I look at this issue in a way that tries to balance it with the fight against terrorism in some countries on one hand, and the culture of the peoples of these countries, on the other.

It is not reasonable to apply to me the values produced by your civilization as something for granted, while my culture rejects some of those values, such as the issue of homosexuality, freedom to practice sex, and propaganda for it, for example. There are some issues that do not correspond to the culture of some peoples. We must respect that culture when we address these people. As for the values of goodness, love, brotherhood, freedom and democracy, they are indisputable human values. The disagreement is only in the ways and tools of their application. This requires a free discussion between the East and the West at the time, hence the idea of Le Dialogue site for dialogue between the East and the West.

When we follow the human rights situation in Egypt, we hear about many arrests and the cases of people like Alaa Abdel Fattah. Why are these people not released?

Why do you look at those individual cases and not look at the thousands of young people who are successively released according to the commission formed for this purpose? Unfortunately, there are important changes on the ground in this file that are not being paid attention to. The focus is only on the names. There is a Presidential Amnesty Committee that was reactivated by a republican decree in April this year. Since that date, 1,148 of those detained on remand in opinion cases and are not involved in criminal cases or had not joined armed groups have been released, including lawyer and former parliamentarian Ziad al-Uleimi, Eng. Yahya Hussein Abdel Hadi, the founder of the Civil Movement, Hossam Mo'anis, a political activist, and Shadi Mohamed.

As for Alaa Abdel Fattah, his story is different. This is a young man who incited the killing of army and police officers, called for storming of the premises of Egyptian Interior Ministry, and encouraged the kidnapping of the children and mothers of officers. There are examples of comments on his Twitter account. What do you react in Europe when a Swiss or a French citizen publishes such comments?

Egypt recently hosted the COP27 conference, and it was a great success for the host country. However, this success did not stop NGOs from demonstrating and complaining. What do you think about this?

This success is also to Egypt's credit. None of the conference organizers in the past allowed human rights organizations to demonstrate inside the conference. Egypt allowed them, however, to do this. It allowed them to hold international press conferences on the side-lines of the conference, in which they criticized human rights conditions. All this was done with the approval of the Egyptian state.