Friday, August 23, 2013

Egypt's Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya Won't Return to Violence, Says Leader

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya won’t return to violence: Leader

Ahram Online, Friday 23 Aug 2013

Islamist group's leader, Aboud El-Zomor, vows to use only peaceful methods to call for Mohamed Morsi's reinstatement

Aboud El-Zomor, a leading figure in the ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, says the Islamist group will not return to violence after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi was toppled from the presidency last month.

Speaking to Time Magazine, El-Zomor, who spent 30 years in Egyptian prisons in connection with the 1981 assassination of former president Anwar Sadat, said: "I gave my orders to Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and the Building and Development Party [the group’s political wing] that anyone who does not follow the peaceful way of protest, or participates in any attack on a government building or organisation, or army, or police, or church and so on, will be dismissed from Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya and the party."

"This is a final decision,” he said. “We choose the peaceful political direction as our way, even in opposition. When we are now opposing the new, illegal government, we are going to oppose it with the tools of democracy."

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya supported Morsi during his tenure in office and has continued to do so after his overthrow by the army amid mass nationwide protests against his rule.

Unlike many speakers at the now-dispersed pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo, El-Zomor also lamented sectarian strife and condemned attacks on Coptic Christians.

"I have been firm in this position even in the times that I have been in prison, without anyone asking me," he said. "I made a statement saying it is against Islamic law to attack houses of prayer, and it is also against the keeping of peace and harmony in society."

Although El-Zomor stresses the importance of peaceful protests, another Al-Gamaa leader, Assem Abdel-Maged, has adopted inflammatory rhetoric since Morsi's ouster, fuelling speculation the group could revert to violence as it did under Mubarak in the1980s and 1990s.

El-Zomor’s cousin, Tarek, another of the group's leaders, has used rhetoric suggesting a return to violence. Both Abdel-Maged and Tarek are at large and face charges of inciting violence, like many other Islamist figures.

Commenting on Tarek, who also served a long sentence in prison for his involvement in Sadat's assassination, El-Zomor said he believes the charges against his cousin stem from his speech at a rally in June, when he said Islamists would “crush” the planned anti-Morsi demonstrations on 30 June.

"When he spoke about ‘crushing', he was not referring to the terms of force, of killing, but rather the numbers, that our numbers will be much higher," El-Zomor said. “We ordered him not to appear in the media and to get out of the scene, in order not to give anyone a chance to use his words as an excuse for saying that he supports the use of force."

On Abdel-Maged, El-Zomor said, "He’s not allowed to move outside. It’s a way of keeping them safe."

However, El-Zomor stressed that attacks on the police are justifiable, due to their use of excessive force and live rounds. "In my opinion, it is a natural reaction of the population against the centres of unfairness," he said, referring to the dispersal of sit-ins, which left over 600 protesters dead.

"The use of live fire against people, killing people, will not resolve the problem. It will actually escalate the problem. It will fan the flames. This is not a way to end the issue. It’s a way to start new problems."

Speaking of his support for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, El-Zomor said the group was not totally on the same page as Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya.

"The Brotherhood were insisting on getting Morsi back. That wasn’t a point for us. We said, ‘this is not important, that Morsi come back,’ but rather we can find another way of reaching a solution," he stated.

Commenting on the release of Mubarak, he said: “My message to him is, ‘I’m not against your release, but after the lessons you learned in prison, you have tasted the bitter taste of prison, which we have tasted, the worst of it in your time. When you get out, do not try to bring back [Mubarak's political party].’”

"This is a time that passed that will never come back," El-Zomor said.

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