October 1, 2013 Special Dispatch No. 5465

Self-Criticism By MB, Egyptian Secularists Following Mursi's Ouster: We Erred, Must Apologize To Egyptian People

October 1, 2013
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 5465

Nearly two months after Egypt's former president Muhammad Mursi was ousted from power by Defense Minister 'Abd Al-Fatah Al Sisi – a period that was marked by a protracted and even violent struggle between the pro-Muslim Brotherhood (MB) camp and supporters of the Egyptian Army – voices on both sides have begun admitting that mistakes were made and expressing regret, and calling to engage in self-criticism and make amends to the Egyptian people.

In an article published on the website of the MB's Freedom and Justice Party, Dr. Hamza Zoba'a, a party spokesperson, admitted that Mursi and the MB and its party had erred, albeit unintentionally. He claimed that the MB's greatest mistake, for which they must apologize to Egypt's citizens, had been the attempt to govern alone,[1]and that another mistake was the incitement to violence that had been heard at their protest rallies following Mursi's ouster. Zoba'a urged his movement to re-examine its conduct since Mubarak's ouster and draw the appropriate lessons. At the same time, he also condemned the behavior of the Egyptian army and police force, which, he said, had been even more violent and involved crimes against humanity, and called upon them to apologize for the slaughter. As a basis for a reconciliation, he called on both sides to apologize for their actions, and proposed a series of additional measures, including: the release of Mursi and a halt to the arrests of MB members, declaring a cessation of violence and a commitment to the law, returning the army to its bases following presidential and parliamentary elections, and putting an end to the MB's exclusion from politics.

Zoba'a's initiative encountered a mixed response from MB members and supporters. Some figures close to the MB said that it represented Zoba'a's personal opinion, rather than the movement's position, adding that some movement leaders supported the initiative but had reservations about several of its clauses. Others in the MB rejected the initiative out of hand. For example, another MB spokesperson, Jihad Al-Haddad, said: "The movement's position has not changed. There can be no alternative to the full restitution of constitutional legitimacy [i.e. the restoration of Mursi's regime] and the total reversal of the results of the military coup."[2] As for the regime, Zoba'a states that it has ignored his initiative and has not discussed it.[3]

Mursi opponents are also voicing regret and self-criticism. In a series of articles, 'Amr Hamzawy, a member of the National Salvation Front, which functioned as the umbrella group of forces opposed to MB rule, called upon Egypt's left and liberal streams to perform self-criticism and apologize to the people for abandoning the principles of democracy, liberties and human rights. He censured these streams for ignoring the exaggerated use of force against Mursi supporters, accusing their MB rivals of treason, and justifying the violation of liberties and human rights or remaining silent about them.[4] Hamzawy urged these factions to uphold their demand for civil rule and prevent military rule, and to pressure the current authorities to revoke the state of emergency.

Below are excerpts from the articles by Zoba'a and Hamzawy:

MB Party Spokesperson: We Performed Badly In Power; We Did Not Fulfill Our Obligation

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Dr. Hamza Zoba'a wrote in an August 29, 2013 article published on the MB website: "One who fails to learn from his mistakes is stupid, and one who doesn't learn from the mistakes of others is an imbecile who will never learn. Did anyone claim that the MB never erred, or that Mursi didn't make mistakes? We have said again and again that we committed errors as a party, as a movement, as a government and as a presidency... The greatest mistake we made, voluntarily or involuntarily, was to fall into the trap of ruling alone. Perhaps we did so under constraint, after the others willingly or unwillingly left us, but the responsibility [still] falls on whoever held the reins of power, namely on us. [It must be said, though, that] it has become clear to us and to the entire world that many of the things [attributed to us] were [actually] the fault of the state security apparatuses, supervised by Defense Minister [Al-Sisi]... It was they who transformed the Tamarrud organization from a paper [organization] into a reality so that it could directly confront the president, the government, the MB and the MB party, with unprecedented backing from the media...

"We erred, both while we were in power and when we were compelled to step down. But since we love this homeland [of ours], we neither turned to violence nor resorted to arms... Violence is not our path and extremism is not our method. All we did was [stage] demonstrations and sit-ins that were dispersed with force, cruelty, violence and state terrorism that were condemned by all liberals worldwide... Someone is going to say: You allowed some of the people to mount podiums at the sit-ins and use strong language that was unmistakable in its bluntness, its inflammatory character and its violent connotations. To this I say: You are correct. These were some of our involuntary mistakes. [But] everybody knows that it is impossible to control [what is said from] the podiums at sit-ins and the slogans [called out] in demonstrations, particularly following a coup and five attempts to disperse the sit-ins that all concluded with massacres that outraged people everywhere.

"If you were wounded by what we said [at the demonstrations], let me remind you that the media [which supported] the coup conducted, and is still conducting, a malicious campaign that is no less violent, raucous and extreme... The difference between our mistakes, which we will definitely learn from – [just as] we will diligently and thoroughly ponder what happened from January 25 [the start of the Arab Spring in Egypt] until today – and your mistakes is the bloodshed. You gentlemen wallowed in blood following your incitement, which still continues... Yes, we made mistakes, but we never committed crimes against humanity.

"We definitely made mistakes, and we must apologize to [our] homeland and the citizens for our poor performance, for they entrusted us [with the reins of power] and we did not properly fulfill our obligation. But let's talk about you, [our opponents]. What about your mistakes? When will you stop and ask yourselves the major question, namely: Is it not high time to consider the homeland's future? Why don't you ask yourselves: Why do we have to murder and imprison the MB [members] and their supporters day and night? Why don't you ask [yourselves]: Are our actions generating a positive outcome that benefits the homeland? Does the murder [of MB members], their imprisonment, exile and indictment solve the homeland's problems, [which have] accumulated over the past three decades [and whose resolution] requires everybody's efforts?..."

We Are Capable Of Drawing Lessons; We Will Not Absolve Ourselves Of Guilt

"When you demonstrated [against Mursi's government on June 30], I said, in a live broadcast with [Egyptian journalist] 'Imad Al-Din Adib: 'This is certainly a vast crowd and we esteem it, respect its anger and seek to mollify it.' But I never thought of calling the army into the political arena... Everybody must admit the mistakes that they made: those who erred while in power – and we've already admitted [our mistakes] – and those who erred by staging a coup. They should not take pride in this crime... The MB's exclusion from the political arena, and the attempt to criminalize its activity as a da'wa movement or as a political party, is a very grave [action], and perhaps it is even impossible, even if it is performed with exaggerated force and repression, as in the current situation. Concepts and ideas should be met with arguments, logic and with competing [ideas], not with all-out war... We, like others, must and can restudy what happened and draw lessons. This is vital for an organization that is implanted in reality and must respond to events positively rather than by criticizing [others] and absolving itself [of guilt]..."

Zoba'a enumerates a series of measures for rescuing Egypt that should be adopted at this stage: All parties will admit their mistakes and draw the lessons from them; the security forces and the army will apologize for the dead and wounded and enact the decisions of the committee that is to investigate the dispersal of the pro-Mursi sit-ins; the army will have its say but it will not have the final word in public affairs and particularly in politics; the security forces and the army will not intervene in politics or favor a particular faction and will return to their bases once a president is elected and a parliament is formed; universal and unconditional freedom of political competition will be safeguarded; all sides will exercise restraint and announce their desistance from violence, their commitment to the law and the Constitution and their opposition to foreign intervention; Mursi and all those imprisoned with him will be freed and the security clampdown and the media campaign against the MB will cease; a comprehensive reconciliation committee will be convened.[5]

Zoba'a on the MB website: "We made mistakes and so did you"

Zoba'a In Another Article: It Is No Shame To Back Down When The Homeland Is In Danger

After figures close to the MB implicitly criticized Zoba'a by stating that his article represented his personal opinion rather than the position of his movement, Zoba'a published another article, in which he stood by his position and clarified that there was room for free expression in the MB movement. He wrote: "My article did not state anything novel, for I and other [MB] party leaders have often stated [these positions] in media interviews, in response to [questions on] scenarios for saving Egypt... What I presented in my article was [merely stated from] a different perspective that helps me to assess the picture in a non-orthodox manner that guarantees Egypt's preservation...

"To anyone who attaches a negative interpretation to my article, and views it as a quasi-retreat [by the MB movement], I say: Dear sir, a retreat from what? Did we commit a coup against somebody, or are we the victims of the coup? Did we kill anybody, or did the dead and wounded come from our ranks and from amongst our great people? Did we arrest anybody, or is it the reverse, with tens of thousands of our people currently detained in jails? Would we back down from defending, alongside our people, our right to life, [and our right] to express ourselves and to support a legitimate [regime] that was elected in free and fair elections? Whether we retreated or not is not the issue here. But let us assume that did retreat. It is no shame to retreat [from one's positions] when the country is in danger, and there is nothing wrong in putting Egypt first. But this cannot be done on a unilateral basis, my dear sirs. This is a collective matter that we must all act together. We all recognize that what happened on July 3 [the day Al-Sisi ousted Mursi] constitutes a coup that must be reversed in search of an [alternative] exit route, for Egypt's sake...

"There are no hawks or doves amongst us [in the MB party], we are all free. We think freely, speak freely, we express our opinions freely and bear responsibility for these opinions in a generous manner that has room for everyone. We are confident in ourselves and in our ability to march forward while benefitting from our predecessors' experience and from our own mistakes, for ultimately we are [only] human! Are you people angels?"[6]

Salvation Front Member: The Left And The Liberals Must Get Back To Democratic Values And Civil Rule

Simultaneously, the anti-MB and pro-army camp is also calling for self-criticism and to apologize to the Egyptian people for mistakes that were made. In his article in the independent daily Al-Shurouq, Dr. 'Amr Hamzawy, a member of the National Salvation Front and a former member of the People's Assembly, wrote: "When political parties and streams make democratic values like freedom, equality, nondiscrimination, citizenship and human rights into their objective... they implicitly make a pact with the citizens to engage in self-criticism and reassess [their positions, when necessary,] in order to renew their commitment to democratic values, rectify deficiencies and apologize for mistakes. This is the gist of the following points that I address to liberals and members of the left...

Dr. 'Amr Hamzawy (image:

1. "[Regarding] the separation of religion and politics as a necessary condition for realizing the principle of [equal] citizenship and the [state's] civil character: Following the January 2011 Revolution, the liberal and left parties and streams called for the adoption of equal civil rights and [for establishing] a civil state within a constitutional, legal and political framework, while opposing the establishment of parties on a confessional basis or any other discriminatory basis. But, under the pressure of the social reality that, since the 2011 referendum on the constitutional amendments, increased the influence to the religious right, they [liberal and leftist streams] accepted the de facto existence of parties which, even if they were not established as religious parties, unreservedly injected religion into their political activity and into the elections... The objective of promoting modernization and enlightenment compels the liberals and the left to emerge from this circle of confusion and work to ensure that the [state's] constitutional, legal and political framework includes a total separation of religion and politics; that checks [are in place] to prevent the forming of parties on a confessional basis; and that a democratic system [is forged] that will supervise conservative parties with a religious source of authority, so they do not mix religion into politics or into elections and do not exploit democratic tools to promote values that contradict citizenship and the [state's] civil character.

2. "[Regarding] the commitment to a civil state [coexisting] with the role of the military and security establishment... If the liberal and left parties and streams wish to emerge from the 'democratic credibility' crisis [into which they fell by treating Mursi's ouster as a democratic act], their only recourse is to apply pressures peaceably, so we can return quickly and methodically to licit and transparent democratic measures, such as a constitutional referendum, parliamentary and presidential elections, and an end to the abnormal situation that was created following June 30, 2013 [namely the emergency powers that the security forces and the army received]. Liberalism does not exist in a political [setting] where the regime is not managed by elected civilians who receive [parliamentary] questions and are accountable, and when there is no regular government turnover. Likewise, no democratic left can exist in a political [setting] that does not aspire – within the framework of the nation state and the rule of law – to insist upon the principles of neutrality and professionalism on the part of the security and military establishment and on popular supervision of them by the elected public authorities, namely by the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

3. "[As to] overcoming the double standard in liberties and human rights and confronting the danger [posed] by the actions of a security[-dominated] state:... The state and its institutions can gain legitimacy by virtue of popular satisfaction solely within the framework of the rule of law and justice, and by preventing the violation of human liberties and rights; by preventing the transformation of the state's enforcement power into a tyranny of the security apparatuses against society...; and [by preventing] treason accusations and defamation [campaigns] against the opposition. The liberals and the left must check themselves and scrutinize all their positions on the violation of liberties and rights and on the danger that threatens Egypt today of reverting to the security[-dominated] state... The liberals and the left that are currently represented in the executive branch and in the National Human Rights Council must press to conduct a full judicial investigation of the past weeks' events."[7]

In a follow-up article Hamzawy continued the list:

4. "[Regarding] the implementation of democratic values by the liberals and the left: When political parties commit themselves to the consolidation of the state's and society's democratic order, they must behave in a democratic fashion themselves, adopt the principles of open public activity and of transparency in organizational and financial matters, and agree to be questioned and give periodic accounts [of themselves] in the framework of the sovereignty of the law... When we look at the conduct of liberal and left parties and streams in Egypt in politics and elections, and when we analyze the positions taken by many of them, and their public pronouncements that ignored the evidence of excessive use of force, accused their critics of treason, and justified the violation of human rights and liberties or remained silent about them – [we see that] an objective need exists for the liberals and the left to conduct self-criticism and a re-examine [their behavior].

5. "[Regarding] an apology: [The Egyptian] citizen and society deserve that the self-criticism and reassessment performed by the liberals and the left result in [their issuing] a democratic apology for watering down their positions and abandoning the demand for a separation of religion and politics, [as well as the demand] for a state with a civil character coexisting with the role of the military and security forces... [They must apologize] for applying a double standard regarding human rights and for the lax commitment to the values of liberty, equality, legal supremacy and transparency [manifest] in many actions [taken] by the liberals and the left within their parties and streams and in their public activity. Egyptians deserve a democratic apology, accompanied by serious work to curb this deterioration and to address these [ideological] errors."[8]


[2] The public response to the initiative was also mixed. For example, the deputy chair of the Salafi stream Al-Da'wa Al-Salafiyya, Dr. Yasser Burhami, praised the Zoba'a initiative, saying that it showed that the MB still had some sensible leaders who could be partners to a dialogue, while most MB leaders were detached from political reality. In contrast, Akram Al-Qassas, an editor at the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', wrote in reply to Zoba'a's article that his initiative was devoid of substance. Al Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 10, 2013, Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), September 10, 2013.

[3] Al Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), August 13, 2013.

[4] On the attempt by Egyptian liberals to justify Mursi's ouster and portray it as a democratic action, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5416, Egyptian Intellectuals Defend Mursi's Ouster: It Is A Reflection Of The People's Will, Not An Anti-Democratic Military Coup, August 21, 2013.

[5], August 29, 2013.

[6], September 8, 2013.

[7] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), September 4, 2013.

[8] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), September 5, 2013.

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