Egypt’s military ruler: ‘Islam is now synonymous to killing, blood and destruction’

Al-Masry Al-Youm interviewed General Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi:

I remember asking you after Morsy won the presidency if he was going to be able to break free of the Brotherhood’s control over him and become a president for all Egyptians. You said it was not about whether he was able to do that, but rather about whether he was willing to do that in the first place.

So you predicted that he was not going to let the interests of the country take priority over the interests of the Brotherhood. How did you arrive at that conviction?

Let me be frank with you. I did not want my expectations to come true. I wanted to see a new rule that would protect the country from surrounding threats, provide an atmosphere of security and stability and achieve development that satisfies the ambitions of the people. My conviction that the president was not going to let the interests of the country take priority over the interests of the group was based on an in-depth study of several factors, including the general features of the president’s personality and his relationship with the group [the Muslim Brotherhood] and its genuine goals.

The problem here– and I do not mean to offend anybody– emanates from the intellectual and ideological structure of the Brotherhood. This does not belittle them but it affects their efforts in managing a state. There is a big difference between the intellectual and ideological system of any group and that of a state. Both have to be in harmony. Problems occur when they clash. In order for the two to be harmonious, one of the two has to rise to the level of the other–so either the state rises to the level of the group, which is impossible, or the group rises to the level of the state by giving up its ideological, religious system, which I think is something they will not be able to do because it goes against the intellectual structure of their group. The discrepancy between the two systems will continue to generate differences and, sensing it, the people will take to the streets in protest.

Just like a group has an intellectual and ideological system, individuals also do. However, the intellectual system an individual has may be harmonious with that of the state because an individual may choose to rise to the level of the state. This is more difficult in the case of a group because a group has one ideology and it believes that giving up one individual is akin to giving up its ideology.

The answer to the question on whether the former president wanted to be a president for all Egyptians or not was not based on an opinion but a good reading of the situation because I knew what the reality of the situation was. When the Brotherhood reached power, the question was not whether Morsy was going to be a president for all Egyptians, but rather if he wanted to be a president for all Egyptians. I am not saying this to criticize anyone. In fact, this problem will face any current [leader] that is not aware of this issue. Islam for an individual is different from Islam for a group or for a state. There are things that an individual might accept while keeping his beliefs, but in the case of groups, we have a number of people who share some thoughts, which they are free to believe in. However, a group cannot force the people to have the same thoughts. This is particularly the problem with Islam for a group. Islam for a state, meanwhile, is more flexible and wider in scope, with room for diligence.

Can anybody question the Islamists’ keenness on Islam? No, but the problem is they cannot distinguish between the practices of an individual of them as a human being, his practices as a member of a group, and his practices as part of a state. It is the lack of harmony between the systems governing the individual, the group and the state that has led to the current situation. They have made people see Islam as destruction. I want to tell you that those so-called Islamists have done harm to the image of Islam. Those who seem to be keen on religion have harmed Islam like never before. Islam is now synonymous to killing, blood and destruction. We have to assess the situation in an objective way and see how the world and other countries see Islam. The problem is definitely with implementation, not with the approach. It is implementation that has done harm to Islam.

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