Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Former Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mehdi Akef has claimed that the Egyptian judiciary under Mubarak was less harsh towards the organization than Egypt’s post-revolutionary courts.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat in the wake of the controversy that has beset the Egyptian political scene after a top Egyptian judicial panel ruled that the Brotherhood has no legal status in the country and should be dissolved, Akef affirmed that the Brotherhood is officially registered in Egypt as an NGO.
In a non-binding report issued on Wednesday to the Supreme Administrative Court, Egypt’s State Commissioners Authority ruled that the Brotherhood have no legal status in Egypt. Responding quickly to these allegations, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood announced that the organization was registered as an NGO under the name “Muslim Brotherhood Association”.
Media reports subsequently claimed that former Guide Mehdi Akef had been appointed to head this non-governmental organization. He denied these reports, informing Asharq Al-Awsat: “It’s not me, rather my nephew, Mohamed Abdullah Akef, who has been appointed to this position.”
NGOs in Egypt are subject to strict Mubarak-era laws regulating their operations and finances, in addition to prohibition against involvement in politics. NGOs in Egypt are also subject to stringent administrative and financial monitoring by the state. These laws throw the Muslim Brotherhood’s evident presence on the Egyptian political scene into doubt.
Well-known Egyptian legal expert Shawki Al-Sayed confirmed this, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that according to Egypt’s NGO law, the Muslim Brotherhood “association” has no right to be involved in politics or seek power. He stressed that this Muslim Brotherhood “association” must be subject to precisely the same rules and regulations as the other 13,000 NGOs registered in Egypt.
An amendment to Egypt’s newly ratified constitution—which was drafted by a majority Islamist Constituent Assembly—allows for NGOs to legalize their status in the future.
An official within Egypt’s NGO oversight body, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood association had “exploited this advantageous condition to form an NGO in order to bypass questions regarding its legal status.”
He added: “However the situation is even more complex than this because the Muslim Brotherhood organization remains present on the ground as a fait accompli, despite the establishment of this Muslim Brotherhood association.”
Former Guide Mehdi Akef, who remains a senior figure within the Brotherhood, put forward his own view regarding the Muslim Brotherhood’s legal status and the controversy surrounding this, describing it as “absurd.” He stressed that the Brotherhood has been present on the scene in Egypt for 85 years, adding ‘if you want to call it an ‘association’ then call it an ‘association’”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is as if the judiciary is unaware of the full scope and size of the organization that it is dealing with, both inside Egypt and abroad, by issuing such a report.”
Akef also emphasized that the judicial authorities under the Mubarak regime would not have been able to issue such a ruling regarding the legality of the Muslim Brotherhood, comparing this with the post-revolutionary era when a supposed Muslim Brotherhood president is in power.
As for the timing of this report, Akef traced this back to “all the [political] parties without exception; all the losers and secularists.”
He also criticized the position being taken by Egypt’s media towards the Muslim Brotherhood. He said: “The media has failed, journalism has failed. Unfortunately the Brotherhood is being confronted by the entire media, they are all in one basket, but they don’t amount to anything.”
He added “The Egyptian street loves the Brotherhood; and the Brotherhood are present on the Egyptian street.”
The former Brotherhood Guide, who was in charge of the organization under Mubarak’s fateful final years, also told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Brotherhood are very respectable and very patient, because they are certain of their position, power, objectives, message, and actions.”
However Dr. Shawki Al-Sayed affirmed that the Brotherhood is facing a genuine crisis over its legal status in Egypt and presence on the Egyptian political scene. He emphasized that the Brotherhood is now in a state of “direct confrontation” with Egypt’s judiciary.
In related news, Egyptian police were deployed to guard the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Saturday after more than 160 people were hurt in running street battles between Islamists and opposition protesters. The protests against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have only escalated in the wake of controversy surrounding the group’s legal status in Egypt.