Arab West Report Middle East Published Articles

Interview with a Presidential Candidate, Summarized

Dr. Abul Futuh

Dr. Abdel Munim Abul Futuh is a frontrunning candidate in the Egyptian presidential elections. He has been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Guidance Council for twenty-five years, but now finds himself officially outside the organization as a result of his desire to run for the presidency. The Brotherhood has stated it will not field a candidate for this post, and thus expelled him from the group. Nonetheless, his stature as a liberal-leaning Islamist positions him well among current declared candidates, and there is a better-than-fair chance he may be Egypt’s next president.

Arab West Report was able to secure an interview with him; questions were posed by Editor-in-Chief Cornelis Hulsman, and composed under his supervision by Yousef Habib, Jenna Ferrecchia, and myself.  Prior to the full transcript and analysis thereof I will place now a brief preview. The final transcript will be posted with a link to the video of this interview in a few days.

The interview was conducted in Arabic, so the nuances of his answers must wait until the proper and precise translation is finished.

How do you plan to unite Egypt as president, given her current divisions?

Egypt has diversity, not division. In order to unite Egyptians the president must have four characteristics:

  • He must work for Egypt’s independence and national benefit
  • He must be religious to fit with the population
  • He must deepen the reality of citizenship
  • He must render justice according to the law

Are you truly independent from the Muslim Brotherhood?

I take pride in the Muslim Brotherhood and in its moderate Islamist ideology. But my separation now is not a tactic. I do not represent the Brotherhood and am completely independent in terms of organization.

What is your opinion about the caliphate?

This is not an Islamic religious term. It represents simply the idea of international cooperation but is misused by many. In any event it does not concern me. I am interested in building Egypt. Besides, as we are now, who can we unite with?

What is your opinion of the Hassan al-Banna quote: ‘The Qur’an has made Muslims to be the guardians for an incapable humanity, giving them the right of superintendence and sovereignty over the world.’

If Banna or anyone else said this, it is an incorrect idea. No person may claim guardianship over any other person, and Islam does not support this. If someone claims to be on better standing with God than someone else, fine, but let him take this up with God. Between men, anyone who sets himself up as better than another, even religiously, damages the essential dignity of humanity.

Note: al-Banna is the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Click here for a summary translation of a compilation of his writings, here for an analysis thereof, and here for the response of a regional leader of the Brotherhood to some of its quotes.

Earlier your said creating the Freedom and Justice Party was ‘a risky gamble’ in the likelihood it would mix proselytizing and politics. What do you think now after their electoral success?

Now as before I do not support the Muslim Brotherhood in creating a political party, as there is an obvious mixture between the two. Every day you get some Muslim Brother – non-affiliated with the Freedom and Justice Party – speaking about politics. It is not good.

How do you see the proper role of Egypt’s president and parliament?

The president should have strong powers but these should be shared with parliament, which maintains both a legislative role and one of oversight on the executive branch.

How do you view the process of reform at the Ministry of Interior?

It is not simply a matter of firing officers, but engineering a change in culture so the police become in service to the people. But this must be done with respect to the preservation of stability.

What are you views about the coming constitutional assembly?

This must be representative of all sectors of society, some of which may come from parliament, but not most. It must produce a national dialogue in order to create consensus, even if this takes time. But out of respect to the March referendum, the writing of the constitution should take place after presidential elections, not before.

What is your view about Article Two of the old constitution, making Islam the religion of the state and the principles of Islamic sharia to be the source of legislation?

It was part of the 1971 constitution and was approved widely by the people. Today, everyone supports it, including Christians.

How many Christians do you think are in Egypt, and should their official number be made public?

I do not have an estimate on their number, but the fact of their number should be part of public information. What is done about this number is another matter, but as a statistic it should be released.

You stated previously there should be no barriers to religious conversion in any direction. What is your view?

Freedom of doctrine is a basic human right and enshrined in the recent Azhar document. But neither the Azhar nor the church should have any role in conversions, as if they must give their approval. It is the state alone which must guarantee this freedom.

What do you think about the unified law for building houses of worship?

This is an invented issue. There is no need for a law but only for administrative permits where there is a need. But really, Egypt does not need more mosques or churches; it needs farms and factories.

How do you view issues of marriage and divorce?

In Islam, marriage is a civil matter, not a religious issue. But if a Christian wishes to have a religious marriage, this is a matter for his community. But in terms of the state marriage and divorce should be civil matters. The problem some Christians have in getting divorces is simply a matter between him and the church; the state is not involved.

What are your ideas on economic policy and Islamic banks?

Time does not permit a full answer, but the gap between the rich and the poor is largely an issue of corruption and poor administration. As for Islamic banks, they exist now everywhere in the world. People should have the freedom to choose the bank they wish to use, with all options available.

Thank you very much for your time, Dr. Abul Futuh.

Update: The interview has now been transcribed. Please click here for the post.

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