June 30, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9422

Egyptian Intellectuals Debate: Is The Muslim Brotherhood A Legitimate Part Of Society, Or A Blight On It?

June 30, 2021
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 9422


In an interview he gave on the tenth anniversary of Egypt's January 25, 2011 revolution, Dr. Hassan Nafie, a professor of political sciences at Cairo University, said that the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is a vital part of Egyptian society that must not be dismissed or ignored, and called on the secular and Islamic sectors in Egypt to dialogue and reach mutual understanding. His statements evoked a scathing response from liberal journalist Khaled Montasser, who wrote in his column in the Egyptian daily Al-Watan that the MB is a "virus" and a "malignant tumor" in Egyptian society that has no regard for the homeland and has spawned terrorists that sowed death and destruction in the name of religion. 

Khaled Montasser (left) and Hassan Nafie (Sources:,

The following are translated excerpts from their respective statements:

Hassan Nafie: Political Islam Is Here To Stay; The MB Is A Legitimate Social Sector

In his January 25, 2021 interview with the London-based online daily, Dr. Hassan Nafie claimed that the only way to heal the deep rift between the religious and secular elements in Egyptian society is to create an atmosphere of dialogue between them. He said: "This schism is not something sudden or new, caused by the events of June 30 or July 3 in 2013, as some currents of the Islamic movement claim. This schism has ancient roots. It goes back to… the political vacuum that has existed in Egypt since the July 1952 revolution, which stifled political life [in the country] and the growth of civil society, thus deepening [divisions]… I think that the interim stage after the [2011] revolution exposed the magnitude of the rift between the [religious and secular] streams and made it clearer. Sadly, the fractures soon became a wide abyss that gave rise to an incurable disease, especially after the events of June 30 or July 3 in 2013. The political arena once again shut the gates [to dissenting voices], especially after 2014, when all the icons of the revolution were jailed. After that there was no longer any opportunity for real dialogue between the sides involving an examination of  everything that happened in the January 25, [2011] revolution and the events that came in its wake, and there was no real attempt to diagnose the disease or cure it. All [the sides] are still entrenched in their positions and thrive on mutual finger-pointing." 

Nafie added: "The only way to bridge the deep rift that has formed is through dialogue. Dialogue requires a specific [kind of] political climate, chiefly one characterized by a bit of freedom, especially freedom of opinion, assembly and political action. This kind of atmosphere is completely absent [in Egypt] today… The secularists must understand that political Islam is here to stay and that the MB is an authentic component of society that cannot be ignored or uprooted on the pretext that it is an extremist stream or that it is beyond reform, for uprooting it is not in any way possible…

"Looking for common ground with this stream should be the first step on the long journey [towards healing the rift]. It is necessary to define the common ground and agree on a timetable and on priorities, and that is possible. As for the Islamists, they too must understand that religion [belongs] to Allah and the homeland belongs to all,[1] and that it is not their place to grant indulgences to whoever they please while denying them to others.  They are entitled to promote the political or cultural program [they favor] and present it to people – but not to present it as dogma that must be followed or must be imposed on society by force, on the grounds that jihad for the sake of Allah is a duty incumbent upon every Muslim who can engage in it…

"In practice, the secularist's dispute with the Islamist is not over Islam and its values, but over the political organization that [the secularist] believes [the Islamist] is operating in. [MB founder] Sheikh Hassan Al-Banna did not mean to found a political party in the conventional sense, but rather an alternative society that he considered a society of believers, as opposed to the existing society, which was not. That is a very dangerous approach that leads to schism in societies, especially societies that include religious minorities. [Instead], the Islamists must act through parties that believe in the values of homeland, citizenship, human rights and national rights as a common denominator they share with the secularists…  

"States of schism are temporary by nature. Sometimes they can persist, for subjective or objective reasons, but they are bound to end. A society cannot survive for long while [using] only half of its [human] capital and [human] energy and power. That is why I think change will surely come, sooner or later…"[2]

Khaled Montasser: "The MB Is Not An Authentic Component But An Alien Corn, A Creeping Fungus, A Parasitic Virus And An Exhausting Tumor"

Responding to Nafie's interview, Khaled Montasser wrote: "'The stream of [political] Islam is here to stay and the MB is an authentic component of society.' This statement, made by Dr. Hassan Al-Nafie to an online newspaper, amazed me because it was uttered by a political science expert who knows very well that what is here to stay is religion, not the political streams that trade in religion and want to control the public by scaring it and warping its perceptions, [political streams] that claim that their word is the word and decree of Allah, for they are His representatives on earth.  He knows very well that the MB is not an authentic component but an alien corn, a creeping fungus, a parasitic virus and an exhausting tumor. Because until 1928 – when the MB was established and consisted of seven people and their leader Hassan Al-Banna – Egypt was a source of light and the cradle of the religions, and it was not waiting… for the seven [MB] founders to teach it the meaning of Islam. 

"How can you call a gang that bombed courts, cinemas and banks, murdered judges and assassinated [Egyptian] prime minister [Mahmoud Fahmi Al-Nukrashi in 1948] an authentic component?! Does authenticity in Egypt mean letting thugs gnaw at [the country's] flesh and control it in the name of religion?  Does a patriotic and authentic component [of society] define the homeland as a handful of rank dirt?[3] Does an authentic component yell 'Egypt can go to hell?'[4] Does an authentic component prefer a Malaysian Muslim [over an Egyptian] as the leader of Egypt?[5] Does an authentic component deem the homeland inferior to the Ottoman Caliphate? Does it allow its MB mufti, dean of the Islamic Shari'a faculty, rule that it is permissible to destroy churches? Oh [Nafie], you expert political scientist and wise historian, how can you describe the MB as an authentic component of our social fabric? Does an authentic component form a secret armed organization to commit murder in Egypt?  How can you encourage this gang, which prostrated itself in Al-Raba'a Square to thank Allah for the intervention of the U.S. Navy?"[6] You were fully entitled to support them at the Fairmont [Hotel],[7] but you have no right to circulate the illusion that they are an authentic component. Whoever wishes to change the identity of this homeland is not an authentic component, but a malignant tumor, a deadly [form of] gangrene and a fatal poison. Dr. Hassan [Nafie], an authentic component is one that stands with me on the common ground called the homeland, even if he disagrees with me on the political level, for the umbrella of the homeland unites us.  But ab MB member who stands somewhere else and regards the homeland as a rung on the ladder towards the dream of the international Islamic [caliphate] is an alien component,  an unwelcome guest and a criminal that must be regarded as [part of] a terrorist enterprise.

"My dear political science expert, do you deny that all terrorists emerged from the womb of the corrupt MB, [like] disfigured zombie-like fetuses? Shukri Mustafa,  leader of the Takfir and Hijra [extremist group], who murdered [Egyptian religious endowments minister] Sheikh [Muhammad Hussein] Al-Dhahabi [in 1977] – was he a disciple of [renowned Egyptian intellectual and writer] Taha Hussein, or of [MB ideologue] Sayyid Qutb?  The murderers of [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat, were they graduates of a ballet school or of the seminary of [MB founder] Hassan Al-Banna? [As for] those secularists whom you accused in your interview of refusing to cooperate with the authentic, charming, sweet and angelic MB component, have you seen any of these Egyptian secularists blowing himself up, inciting to murder [Egyptian] soldiers and officers, burning a church, or    threatening us that Sinai will remain on fire as long as his organization does not rise to power?! The secularists refuse to shake the hand that is soaked in blood. Despite all the attempts to slander them, and all the methods used to demonize them, the secularists love this homeland. Their only faith is their conscience, and they do not use it like goods at the marketplace or an accessory in a boutique."[8]


[1] This was a slogan of Egypt's liberal era in the early 20th century.

[2], January 25, 2021.

[3] A saying attributed to MB ideologue Sayyid Qutb, reflecting his view of nationalism.

[4] The reference is to a statement made by Mahdi Akef, who was the head of the MB in 2004-2010, to the Egyptian paper Roz Al-Yousef. See Al-Watan (Egypt), September 22, 2017;, April 12, 2006. 

[5] In 2006 Mahdi 'Akef reportedly said that he preferred to see a Muslim man from Malaysia or Indonesia as the leader of Egypt rather than an Egyptian Christian or woman. Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 15, 2014.

[6] In July 2013, amid the unrest in Egypt following the ouster of president Morsi, the U.S. Navy positioned several vessels off the Egypt coast. Egyptian TV host Muhammad Al-Ghaity circulated a story that MB members protesting Morsi's ouster in Al-Raba'a Square had rejoiced at the arrival of these U.S. ships. See MEMRI TV Clip No. 4446, TV Host: Egyptian Frogmen Captured U.S. Battleship Commander in 2013, August 24, 2014.     

[7] The reference is to talks held in June 2012 at the Fairmont Hotel in Cairo between Muhammad Morsi, then a presidential candidate on behalf of the MB, and several political and public figures, including Al-Nafie. See, June 22, 2013; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), April 30, 2013.

[8] Al-Watan (Egypt), January 31, 2021.

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