The following are excerpts from an interview with Egyptian author, Alaa Al-Aswani, which aired on OTV on August 18, 2009 and on Dream 2 TV on January 14-28, 2010.
OTV, August 18, 2009:
Alaa Al-Aswani: In medicine, we study diseases and symptoms. This is a very important lesson, because you cannot cure the symptoms unless you treat the disease. If somebody has a fever – perhaps he has the flu, and perhaps he has meningitis, and you can reduce his fever, but he will die. You need to recognize the disease and cure it. When you cure the disease, the symptoms disappear. Religious extremism is a symptom of tyranny.
I do not doubt the loyalty of [the extremists]. They are very loyal, and they have a romantic view of the world – like we had at university – and they want to bring about change. But when they see that they have no opportunity for political expression, no opportunity for organized political activity, and they know full well that if they take to the streets, they will be beaten up...
They are not educated, and they have nothing. So they turn to a sheik. They go to him twice a week, and he presents them with rigid notions as if they were the religion, saying that anyone who thinks otherwise is an enemy of the religion, a secularist, and part of an international conspiracy against Islam, as you mentioned before.
Interviewer: You are presenting two contradictory solutions: democracy and Islam.
Alaa Al-Aswani: There is no contradiction between the two.
Interviewer: From what you said, we felt that there was.
Alaa Al-Aswani: No. When I say that democracy is the solution, it includes everything. It means that religion should not determine our political rights. A Muslim should not enjoy greater political rights than a Copt. This would be a religious country.
Interviewer: Do you support the establishment of a Muslim Brotherhood party?
Alaa Al-Aswani: Of course, as long as it accepts the democratic process, participates in the elections, if it loses, steps aside, and removes from its platform dangerous fascist notions like the caliphate...
Religious extremism is like bacteria. In medical studies, you learn about bacteriology. Bacteria always develops in a rotten closed environment. Bacteria cannot develop in open air. Religious extremism and terrorism emerge in a closed society.
Dream 2 TV, January 14-28, 2010:
Alaa Al-Aswani: Since its inception, the Muslim Brotherhood has always opposed democracy. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood stood alongside King Farouq. They always support the tyrannical ruler against democratic reform. Without exception. They always have the organization's interests, not the country's, in mind.
Interviewer: The Muslim Brotherhood comes first.
Alaa Al-Aswani: That's right.
My dispute with Anwar Sadat begins with the process that led to the Camp David Accords. This is a political dispute. In my view, Egypt gave more than it received in the Camp David Accords, which had a negative impact on Egypt and on the Arab world, but this does not diminish my esteem for Anwar Sadat.
Personally, I think that if there had been a democratic regime back then, Sadat's political conduct regarding the Camp David Accords would have been better. An agreement of that scale – an agreement that put an end to the conflict, at least temporarily, pulled Egypt out of the Arab camp, and established ties between Egypt and Israel...
To this day, we do not know whether the Egyptian people supported it or not. I defy any research center that claims to know whether the Egyptians supported the Camp David Accords or not. It was a mistake. I am not saying that Sadat was not a great leader, but this was a mistake.