For Dr. Mohamed Mukhtar Gomaa, the Egyptian Minister of Islamic Religious Trusts, religious affairs, Islam and politics should not mix. Dr. Gomaa who was attending the Conference on the Dialogue Between Civilizations and Cultures in Bahrain this week told me during my interview with him that “Islam should not be part of politics because the role of religion should only be about preaching a moral public life and for the betterment of society. We should advocate a centrist form of Islam especially that of Al Azahr, which is the center of Islamic learning in Egypt and across the Islamic world.”
Mr. Gomaa argued that politics and power are corrupting therefore religion should stay away from politics and power. The frame of reference of Mr. Gomaa here is the political crises that are currently dividing Egypt between those who support the Muslim Brotherhood and president Mohamad Morsi ― who was deposed from power on June 30th 2013 by the Egyptian military after a mass protests broke out against it ― and those who support the military takeover of power in a coup that took place few days later.
According to Dr. Gomaa, the one year the Muslim Brotherhood stayed in power was the worst in the history of modern Egypt. “The Muslim Brotherhood movement is an exclusionary movement that does not tolerate others or dissent, and is a terrorist organization,” he said.
To prove his point, he pointed to president Morsi’s constitutional declarations in 2012 when he appointed a new attorney general whose declarations would carry the force of law without contestation or judicial review until the Egyptian parliament assumes legislative powers.
Morsi’s declarations, even though within his constitutional authority as a president, eventually led to massive streets protests and ultimately led to his demise from power. For the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Morsi’s declarations were the ultimate sin and an assault on the Egyptian people.
“He acted like the Pharaoh who thought that he was more powerful than God,” he said referring to the story of the Pharaoh in the Quran, who was the tyrant ruler of Egypt and thought that he was all too powerful until he was drowned in the sea.
Days later and under immense public pressure Morsi amended his declarations and reinstated the fired attorney general back to his old job, but it was too late at that point.
The current Egyptian military-backed government declared the Muslim Brotherhood group a “terrorist organization.” Anyone who is a proven member of the groups according to the new Egyptian law can be punishable by five years in prison, while anyone who is found to provide weapons or other military support to the group can face the death penalty.
When I asked him his proof of terrorism the group or its leaders committed that warranted declaring them a terrorist organization, he pointed to statements by some of the group leaders such as El Biltagi who were quoted threatening violence and bringing mujahidin fighters to Egypt if they were removed from power.
Although the context of such statement by the Brotherhood leaders is hotly debated , in the minds of millions of Egyptians who support the military this was enough to prove that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organizatios. To prove his case further, Mr.Gomaa said that during public celebrations Morsi, while he was in power, had surrounded himself with the killers of former president Anwar Sadat and people who fled from jails and leaders of the outlawed Gamaa Islamiya.
“Morsi was worse than Mubarak,” he told me in a fast passionate voice. But when I told him that many people in Egypt claim that the pro-Mubarak forces had helped topple Morsi and the old Mubarak regime might return to power with new faces. He said, “The wheels of political reform will not go backward and the Egyptian people of today are not the same before the revolution.”