January 29, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5156

Egyptian Salafi Leader Muhammad Al-Zawahiri: Democracy Contravenes Islam; Shari'a Law Is The Answer To All Of Egypt's Problems

January 29, 2013
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 5156

In a January 27, 2012 interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian Salafi-jihadi leader Muhammad Al-Zawahiri, brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, addressed the situation in Egypt and the changes that have occurred there since the January 25 revolution. In the interview, conducted by Waleed Abdul Rahman, Al-Zawahiri said that the situation in Egypt has improved in terms of lifting the oppression from the Muslims and allowing them to promote what they view as the true religion, but that Egypt still has a long way to go in terms of implementing the laws of the shari'a. Asked why he has not joined a political party, he replied that democracy contravenes the precepts of Islam, and therefore he rejects all of its mechanisms and tools. He added that the corrupt remnants of the old regime are responsible for Egypt's ongoing economic problems and are behind the unrest in the country, and stressed that the full implementation of the Islamic shari'a is the solution to all of these problems.

The following is the interview, as published in the English edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:[1]

"Muhammad Al-Zawahiri is the brother of Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and a founding member of the Salafi-jihadist group in Egypt. He was arrested against the backdrop of the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, spending a total of 14 years in prison. After his release, he left the country, living abroad in numerous countries across the Arab world, including Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates. He was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia in 1998 in the 'Returnees from Albania' case.

"Zawahiri returned to Egypt following the ouster of the Hosni Mubarak regime on 11 February 2011. He was arrested on his return, but acquitted of all charges against him by military tribunal last March. Since his return to Egypt, the other Zawahiri has offered to mediate talks between the Egyptian military and [the] Sinai-based jihadi organization, as well as between the Islamists and the United States, claiming that if anybody can talk his brother, Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, out of violence, it's him."

"The Political Situation In Egypt Is Contrary To The Laws Of God"

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "What's your view of the situation in Egypt on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "Thankfully, the situation is improving in terms of lifting the oppression from the Muslims and in terms of our freedoms, and this includes promoting what we view as being the true religion. However, we are still very far from the primary objective of implementing Islamic shari'a law."

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "What about the political situation?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "In our view, the political situation in Egypt is contrary to the laws of God; therefore, we are calling for correct and legitimate means, which requires discipline, to be used to implement Islamic shari'a law. From our view, the best way to achieve national reconciliation is via the full implementation of Islamic shari'a law. This is because society has fallen prey to partisanship... and this is something that cannot lead to stability. History is full of examples of this, while in eras when Islamic law was implemented, non-Muslims lived in harmony under the law of God. And history does not recall any cases of non-Muslims becoming fed up with Islamic shari'a law."

"We Can Also Resolve The Economic Problems By Resorting To Islamic Shari'a Law And Purifying Our Financial Transactions"

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "In your assessment, what is the solution to Egypt's economic woes?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "The economic situation in Egypt is not as bad as some people are portraying it. All the signals indicate that prices have decreased following the revolution, while prices were rising at a constant rate during the previous era. In fact, we are of the view that prices have remained stable, particularly regarding agricultural products. This is not to mention a rise in the water levels behind the High Dam. This is all because of the lifting of tyranny and poverty and because some called for the implementation of Islamic shari'a law; they deserve the blessings of heaven and earth.

"So what would happen if we implemented full shari'a law? There can be no doubt that the situation would improve drastically. We can also resolve the economic problems by resorting to Islamic shari'a law and purifying our financial transactions, particularly those that are contrary to Islamic law, such as usury, which is something that the Egyptian economy does not want. If we get rid of the financial transactions forbidden by Islam, such as monopolization and the like, then certainly we will not have any economic problems."

"The Roots Of The Former Regime Remain In Place... And Continue To Pursue Their Own Interests"

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "How do you view the security situation? How can we resolve this, to return security and stability to the Egyptian street?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "We can assess the security situation from two points. First, in terms of the repressive practices and the injustices carried out against the Muslim people. These have stopped, and this is because such practices were a tool to protect the interests of the regime, not the interests of the people. Since the security apparatus was not utilized for its original function – to protect the people's interests – it deteriorated.

"Second, in terms of protecting the interests of the people, the least that can be said about this is that this situation is very bad and may continue for some time. This is because the roots of the former regime remain in place to a certain degree and continue to pursue their own interests. Therefore, it is natural for them to attempt to harm the people that toppled their leader and removed the bulk of their interests. This anger is expressed in these remnants being behind the chaos and unrest that is happening on the Egyptian street now. Many of their members have committed crimes, so they do not want to see any stability.

"Therefore, the proposed solution to return stability to the Egyptian street once more is via the full implementation of Islamic shari'a law. Here, I would like to stress that my intention is to restore security, not tyranny, which the people may view as being comfortable. Therefore, the only way to restore security is to implement Islamic shari'a law. These unequivocal texts (of law), which deter all those who contravene them and do not favor one party over another, are the only solution."

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "What is the reason behind the general state of poverty in Egypt? What about the lack of basic services? What's the solution to this?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "The solution is to confront the rampant corruption of the previous era. This led to the looting of the country's wealth and the destruction of its economy."

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "Why didn't you join a political party in the post-revolution period?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "We are of the view that democracy contravenes the true religion of Islam, as this places sovereignty outside of God's hands, and so we reject democracy and all its mechanisms and tools."

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "Do you think the current conditions in Egypt are suitable for regaining the political momentum that occurred two years ago?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "If by 'momentum' you mean the factors that led to the 25 January revolution, such as injustice, then this will never be like it was in the past."

The Salafi-Jihadis Are Not The Problem; "It Is The West And The U.S. That Create Problems To Serve Their Own Interests"

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "Have you found suitable employment in Egypt? Has your life reached a point of normalcy following your return to the country after years living abroad?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "No... I have not found employment opportunities despite my high degree of qualification and although I pioneered two new architectural theories. This is due to tightening security regarding myself and my siblings on the part of Islamist ideologues. The majority of us spent more than 15 years without an income, and now, they are intimidating people against us to the point that we cannot do anything."

[Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:] "Some people are of the view that Salafi-jihadis and their activities always cause problems for ruling regimes and the international community, particularly the West and the U.S. Do you agree?"

[Al-Zawahiri:] "This view is inverted; it is the ruling regimes and the international community – particularly the West and the U.S. – that create problems to serve their own interests."


[1], January 27, 2013. The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

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