How the Brotherhood views the crisis

What follows is a brief Q & A, conducted today, with Abdel Mawgoud Dardery, a former MP from Luxor with the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, who previously served on a delegation to Washington, DC, and is a frequent voice for the organization in Western media.

Dardery, who is in Cairo during the ongoing crisis, warns that US support for the military-backed ousting of President Mohamed Morsi risks damaging relations with the Muslim world and suggests that third-country mediation is necessary for reconciliation negotiations. He says that the arrests of top Brotherhood leaders has not damaged the movement's ability to coordinate its efforts and that they will remain non-violent, though unaffiliated supporters may be impossible to control.

Without room to include Dardery's remarks in my most recent writing, I thought it would be useful to record my notes here, especially after the killing of 51 pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo on Monday morning.

What do you make of the current situation?

It is very dangerous for both [the US and Egypt]. We've been working very hard to build bridges of understanding, and the stand the American administration has on the coup is just burning all bridges, bringing them down. The anger is everywhere in the Muslim world. By Muslim I mean those with a political Islamist stance.

What do you say to those who argue that Morsi governed undemocratically and needed to be removed? 

That's a very much undemocratic and, I'm sorry to say, uncivilized thing to say. I mean, look at the opposition against George Bush in his war against Iraq. People were marching in all cities against the war. They did not bring him down, they did not stop him, they have the right to bring him down in the next elections.

And there was supposed to be parliamentary elections in April, and then postponed to October. It's not really.. Putting two million or three million in the streets is not a sign of power, it's going to elections. The government would've been way stronger than the president.

You mentioned that this might permanently damage political Islam's view of democracy, what do you mean? 

We were willing to learn that democracy cleanses itself and fixes its own problems and the best thing is, if the opposition had so many millions, the easiest, the most civilized, the most democratic way is to go to parliamentary elections. Yes, it is a longer process...[but] now legitimacy is over in Egypt. How can you trust any coming election if the military can come and cancel it any time? That is very crucial for a baby democracy in Egypt.

But don't you think President Morsi made a lot of mistakes in office? 

Of course he did, who doesn't make mistakes? I mean, Obama promised to close Guantanamo, he didn't deliver...Many presidents don't, because what they promise when they run for office is much different than what they do in their actual life experience.

I think a lot of these arguments are kind of put as a justification. [But Morsi's fall] will always be brought into the discussion: Just look at what they did to the first elected president, especially with an Islamic background.

So what strategies does the Brotherhood have to resolve this crisis? 

My preferred option is for Morsi to come back and for a coalition government to be negotiated, 50-50, half from FJP and half from the opposition. And their mission is to organize the parliamentary election and if need be, after the results of the parliamentary election, a presidential election can take place.

If that is not acceptable, then we're really calling for a disaster in the country. Bring him back. The only way [to not] sabotage democracy is elections. This difficult time is teaching us all the need for compromise. I think we will be better compromisers than we used to.

I know that the Supreme Guide has called publicly for peaceful resistance, but many are worried that with your leadership arrested, some members or their allies will see violence as the only response. Is that a possibility?

Each [victim] today has at least 2,000 mourners behind them, and then the victim mentality will come again into the Muslim mind, again after it was about to be liberated from victimhood and live in a healthy environment and speak their mind and live in better conditions.

It is way safer than ending his presidency in this undemocractic way. The police state is coming back.

But people say some of your allies, like Safwat Hegazy, are inciting supporters to violence. 

I read a book a long time ago called Blaming the Victims by Edward Said. Safwat Hegazy and others are victims of state terrorism. To terrorize so many people because you think someone is different, or you side with one group against the ruling [FJP] party - again the ruling party that won two elections and two referendums. What [Hegazy] is saying is a reaction against the state terrorism against him and other people. When people are angry, they say things they might not mean...and they are sending messages to the junta. That is how I read Safwat Hegazy.

The Brotherhood in total is committed to peaceful resistance not because they can't do otherwise but because peaceful resistance is what made the January 25 revolution successful, and also it proved to be more effective, and on the other side violence breeds violence no doubt about it. But I think the Brotherhood is willing to sacrifice in a peaceful resistance way, way more than violent clashes because at the end of the day the people in the military are Egyptians and the people resisting are Egyptians. 

I'm also saying that I don't know how people not from the Brotherhood will react. But the Brotherhood, they respect elders and leaders they elect. Because it goes to the democracy within the movement [which] is very strong all the way from the small unit to the Supreme Guide, they're all elected members, so we will stick to the consultation, what we call the Shoura, and the Shoura is for peaceful resistance.

On the other hand, I don't know how other members of the Egyptian society will react. Imagine a friend of mine was killed today, now this friend of mine has a large family, its members are not all members of the Brotherhood, and they can reach a conclusion that this violent terrorist regime understands no language [except] counter-terrorism. We don't condone this, but I always say let us not blame the victim.

In recent days, many of the top Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice officials have been arrested, like Shater, like Saad el-Katatny, maybe hundreds of others. Doesn't that impact your group's ability to make decisions?

As a movement, we are not based on a one-man show, there are so many levels in the organization, and the consultation goes all the way from the bottom all the way to the top, so the communication is going on even in these difficult times. No one member will make a decision without consulting other members, and also if you cannot consult, like a formal consultation, you will always make a personal consultation, it is part of the Islamic tradition to consult.

So the absence of el-Shater, because Shater is the vice supreme guide, or the absence of Katatny, it is a well-established organization, so there are different layers of leadership, and they will always be able to make decisions and do consultation.

Of course, the absence of such leaders like Katatny, such a wonderful human being, peaceful, committed to democracy, imagine, he was speaker of parliament, it's a big insult, it makes people angry and it makes people feel targeted because of what they are.

Do you think this campaign of arrests will get worse? Is the government going to crack down like in the 1950s? 

It looks like a threat tactic, or scare tactic, by the state to scare, and they don't know that the Muslim Brotherhood are committed to what they believe in, and these atrocities make them stronger. If the state goes back to Mubarak's days, and that's if the coup succeeds, most likely it will go back to the old days of Mubarak, because we already see signs - shutting down TV channels - and you see the shameful act of the Egyptian media.

The Guidance and Shoura Council of the group are speaking to one another and there are different committees speaking to one another and the leadership of the FJP are speaking to one another. Of course, it is making it difficult, and it is not for Egypt or the interest of reconciliation.

I think maybe a third party is needed here to facilitate the reconciliation or the communication between the different parties on the condition that the ceiling should not be the coup d'etat. I strongly recommend Turkey due to its experience with coups and its experience with democracy, and there has to be a compromise from all sides.

Again, how can you be sure you resistance will remain non-violent if so many of your leaders are locked up?

We don't have a one-man show, we have leaders on all levels. When it reaches a major decision, I think there will be ways and means for the movement to solicit the opinion of as many leaders as possible. I think they were hoping for a negotiation within the jail walls [when they arrested Katany and others], I think they're trying to pressure him for a negotiation under the ceiling of the coup.

The good news is, Ramadan is coming tomorrow or after, and that is a very telling, very encouraging environment for peaceful resistance.

What might be the permanent effects of the military's overthrow of Morsi? Why not just admit defeat, say you don't want to spill more Egyptian blood, and prepare for new elections?

A peaceful settlement to the crisis is better for Egyptians and for American interests in the area. At least it will keep the trust between the different parties. This trust-destroying political settlement is detrimental to the democratic process in the Arab world and in the Muslim world. I am worried about the trust...even after you win the election, you see, imagine we go for the election. We win the parliamentary election with a large number of seats, and then we win the presidential elections, how will we know if this will happen again? You see the trust is broken, and in politics there has to be some level of trust.