In a recent TV interview, Egyptian philosopher Murad Wahba said that he did not consider the revolutions in Egypt to be real revolutions, because the people's mentality "has not changed a bit." Speaking on the Egyptian Sada Al-Balad TV channel, Wahba said that attempts to reach compromise and harmony render a revolution defunct. Comparing the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis to the Middle Ages in Europe, Wahba said that ultimately, only secularism could deliver the Egyptians from this crisis.
Following are excerpts from the interview, which was broadcast on November 15, 2013:
Murad Wahba: Both the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis want to impose their understanding of Islam upon society in its entirety, in an effort to establish an Islamic Caliphate. The Islamic Caliphate supersedes countries and states. This leads directly to the Islamization of planet Earth and taking control over it.
Unfortunately, the June 30 Revolution lacks any philosophers. Philosophers play an important role in any revolution. You get 30 million people out on the street to resist, to express the negative, but those 30 million do not express what they want in the positive. Herein lies the crisis of the June 30 Revolution.
Interviewer: Is it the philosophers who lead the people to war?
Murad Wahba: What characterizes philosophers is their desire to get to the bottom of things. They do not adulate anyone, think in a superficial way, or compromise. As far as I am concerned, the strangest thing is the effort to reach a compromise and mutual agreement. This has nothing to do with the revolution. A revolution means bringing about fundamental change, and this runs counter to any attempt at compromise or harmony.
Compromise is possible only if there has been no revolution in the country. When things are calm and there are no conflicts, you sit around and reach mutual understanding. But you conducted a revolution, generating a fundamental change, and this means destroying the system and trying to establish a new one. In such a situation, there is no room for mutual understanding. It is illegitimate. Compromise and harmony render the revolution defunct.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis are fundamentalist movements, which means that they are committed to refrain from using the intellect when it comes to religious texts. Therefore, they are by necessity committed to stick to the past. They follow what has been said in the past to the letter. That is why they fight to include the phrase "shari'a rulings" in the constitution. If you oppose this, they try to get it into the preamble. They would do anything to shackle you to a specific tradition and to the past, thus abolishing the future. But a revolution is conducted for the sake of the future, not for the sake of the past.
Interviewer: A revolution is for the future, not the past...
Murad Wahba: Exactly. The members of the Committee of 50 [drafting the constitution] are working for the past, not the future. I attended one of their sessions, one of the hearings. They handed out the draft constitution. I found that in the preamble, or in one of the articles, it said that the culture of Egypt is part of the Arab and Islamic nation. So it told him that this expression isolates Egypt from human civilization.
You have no right to talk of us only being Arab and Muslim. We belong, first and foremost, to civilization, because civilization existed before the Arabs and before there were religions. Civilization began with agriculture.
I believe that there is a law for a developing civilization, which saves it whenever there is a setback. The law states that it is categorically forbidden to impose any absolute belief on society, because it shackles it and prevents it from developing. Let me give you some examples: Communism, Nazism, the Fascism of Mussolini, and the recent Islamic surge of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood did not last for even a single year, because the law of civilization was harsh on it, and brought justice upon it within a single year. The law of civilization could not tolerate the Muslim Brotherhood. The same law tolerated the Middle Ages for 300 years. But in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood, it rectified matters within a year. This means that the MB constitutes a catastrophe for civilization.
I am talking about Islamic culture, not Islamic civilization, and I am talking about a single human civilization with a multitude of cultures.
It is not a clash of civilizations, but a clash of absolute beliefs. Any culture that dismisses other cultures and purports to be the only culture, is perpetrating a crime against humanity. This means a battle of cultures.
Interviewer: So by wanting to rule Egypt, the MB are committing a crime against humanity?
Murad Wahba: Without a doubt.
Interviewer: How come?
Murad Wahba: Because they are trying to impose an absolute belief on the people.
Interviewer: The people revolted against the MB on June 30, and they were removed from power after less than a year. But has the mentality changed?
Murad Wahba: Absolutely not. It has not changed a bit.
The mentality has to change. I was surprised that the Copts demanded a parliamentary quota. They don't understand that a revolution has taken place. A quota is the outcome of political laziness.
Interviewer: You were surprised that they demanded a quote?
Murad Wahba: Of course.
Interviewer: And you denounce it?
Murad Wahba: Yes. I told them so to their faces.
Interviewer: Why? What's wrong with affirmative action?
Murad Wahba: It means that the voters reject the election of Copts, or of women for that matter. The women protested again and again, and when they got fed up, they said: "Lump us together with the Copts, so we can get a quota." This quota is a comic farce, because it implies that you are incapable of wining the elections.
The Copts engage in politics and participate in demonstrations, and that's good, but their mentality has to change. I have been following them for a long time. They should replace their religious mentality with a political one. They are just like the Muslim Brotherhood. They echo one another. Both have a religious mentality. Only secularism can deliver them from this crisis.
Interviewer: The term "secularism" has got a bad reputation, and some people equate it with heresy. Egypt is a "civil" state. As you may know, the term "civil" is a tricky one. The secularists use it to avoid being accused of heresy, and the Islamists use it to avoid being accused of fanaticism.
Murad Wahba: Beautifully put. That's entirely true. This is Egypt's catastrophe.
Our mentality has not changed...
Interviewer: That's your duty...
Murad Wahba: Pardon?
Interviewer: This is the duty of you and us, the duty of the elites. The masses have done beyond what could have been expected.
Murad Wahba: But there are no elites. If there were any elites, we wouldn't be in this situation. How do the elites agree to utter the word "compromise" in the framework of a revolution?!
The organization and structure of society is manifest in the elite, not in the masses. In both revolutions, it was the masses, without the elites, that took to the streets, and this is the crisis of the Egyptian revolution. Therefore, all you have left to rely upon are the army, the police, and the great courage of Fieldmarshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
How did Europe deliver itself from the Middle Ages? The Middle Ages were just like the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis. How did the Europeans liberate themselves from the Middle Ages?
Murad Wahba: The philosophers played a very important role in it, and they suffered abuse and were accused of heresy for it.
The president of my university came to talk to me in 1997. He was proud to have read my books when he was still a high school student.
He asked me to stop teaching undergraduate students, saying: "We have received many complaints that the students cannot sleep at night. They are worried. Your [secular] ideas shock them and give them nightmares. As for your two or three graduate students – we don't care if they lose sleep at night." I said to him: I don't want the graduate students either. I will leave them in peace.
The university is ruled by the fundamentalists. I worked on a project of creativity, but they prevented it...
Interviewer: Are these fundamentalists behind all the demonstrations at the universities?
Murad Wahba: The teachers are behind it.
Interviewer: The teachers?
Murad Wahba: Does this shock you?
Interviewer: No, it doesn't.
Murad Wahba: People talk about bullies leading the demonstrations, but that's superficial. The university is controlled by the MB's fundamentalist ideology, and this is why Egyptian universities have found themselves outside human civilization. You cannot develop any creative theory in science, literature, or anything. Forgot all the nonsense you read in the newspaper about how great we are. I have attended dozens of international conferences, and I can say that there is no trace of the Arabs there.
Once, I was surprised to learn that between 1948 and 1988, there was no Arab member in the higher executive committee of the International Federation of Philosophical Societies. So I presented my candidacy, after receiving support from others. And I was elected. I completed my designated term of 15 years, and that was it. To this day, no one has replaced me.
Interviewer: To this day?
Murad Wahba: Yes, in the International Federation of Philosophical Societies. Let me tell you something. The president of the federation once told me that he wanted me to deliver a letter, saying that the Egyptian society is a lethargic member of the federation – it never pays its dues and never participates in conferences. So he sent me the letter, and I talked with the man in charge here in Egypt, who said to me: "We don't need them. They need us. The day will come when they turn to us to be taught philosophy."
America, too, is doing everything wrong. It is going from bad to worse. They tell us that they want democracy [in Egypt] by tomorrow morning. That's ignorance. These people don't understand anything.
Interviewer: Sowing democracy is difficult?
Murad Wahba: Of course. It took Europe 400 years. Once, an ambassador representing one of the Gulf countries said to me: "We want to develop. How many years will it take?" I told him take 100 years. He said that was too long. I told him that 100 years is very good. It took Europe 400 years. He said: "Make it less." I said: "Fine, let's make it 50 years, but you will have to expel Ibn Taymiyyah and bring in Averroes instead." He said: "That I can't do."