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January 27, 2010

Nuggets from New Muslim Brotherhood Leader's Al-Jazeera Interview
Posted by Shadi Hamid

As some of you know, the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most influential Islamist group in the Middle East, recently elected a new leader. His name is Mohammed Badie and he's perceived to be staunch conservative. He is regarded by some as a "Qutbist," in part because he was an associate of Sayyid Qutb's in the 1960s (yes, Arab leaders are almost universally very, very old). In between my blogging on this, you can continue to follow my coverage of the Brotherhood and the post-election fallout here on twitter.

So, anyway, as you might expect, a lot of people are getting worried and talking about the Muslim Brotherhood's conservative turn or impending "radicalization." Before getting ahead of ourselves though, it may be worthwhile to look at what Badie has actually said, since ascending to his new post. There was one particularly interesting, long, wide-ranging interview with al-Jazeera last week. The transcript, courtesy of Abdel Monem Mahmoud, is here, but it's in Arabic. So I've gone ahead and translated some of the more relevant/ intriguing portions:

Badie on the nature of the Brotherhood: "We are not a political association as some think; we are a group that carries Islam in its totality.”

Badie on allegations that Brotherhood internal elections were not free and fair: "Yes, there were concerns. Yes, we need to review some of these issues."

Badie on charges that he and other conservatives effectively ousted two of the Brotherhood's more prominent "moderates" - Mohammed Habib and Abdel Monem abul Futouh - from the organization's leadership: "I want to say that my third grandson’s name is Habib because I love Dr. Habib and I very much love my brother Abdel Monem and what is between me and them and between the Brotherhood and them is love and respect."

Badie on regime repression: "We in this past phase were under enormous pressure... and it prevented us from being able to present what we have to offer to the Egyptian people."

Badie on all the negative press the Brotherhood's been getting: "Why do people focus on the negative and not the positive, such as the fact that we had a leader, in good health, who left his leadership post out of his own volition?” (referring to the fact that the previous General Guide voluntarily resigned from office and called for elections to select his successor, something which almost never happens in the Arab world).

Badie on whether he hates President Mubarak: "Who says such things!? This shouldn’t even be presented as a question in the first place!”

Badie on members of the Muslim Brotherhood's involvement in violence in the late 1940s, in particular the assassination of Prime Minister Nuqrashi: "Yes, this happened and it was a mistake on the part of an individual and these individual actions were rejected by the leadership of the Brotherhood.”

Badie on takfir (the practice of declaring a Muslim to be non-Muslim and therefore making his blood licit): "When some of the shabab (young activists) fell under dire repression in prison, they felt that these repressive actions (e.g. torture) could not been done by real Muslims.This led to a violent reaction on their part, and led them to promoting ideas and rulings which were in contradiction with the law of God."

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