The New York Times recently published a column by Gehad el-Haddad — the spokesman for the global Islamist group The Muslim Brotherhood — penned from the confines of his Egyptian jail cell, in Tora. What follows is my reply.
I shall not begin this letter by asking if you are well. I was sentenced to five years in the very same jail that holds you now. I know what solitary confinement does to a person’s mind, body and soul. Worse, I know first-hand the torture that is practised in Egypt’s dungeons, which you may have witnessed before you were confined to your solitary cell. I know that you are not well. But you know too that inna ma’al-usri yusra —with the hardship comes ease. This too, shall pass.
I read your letter published in the New York Times with mixed feelings. At once it brought back painful memories of my time as a prisoner in Mazra Tora. During those days I used to walk with your murshid al-‘aam, the leader of your group, Dr. Muhammad Badei’ around the cell block in the desert sand as he told me stories of his youth. Your previous spokesman, Dr. Essam el-Erian, showed me incredible generosity, regularly hosting me in his cell during Ramadan as we broke our fast together. I say mixed feelings because my thoughts have changed significantly since those difficult days, and I genuinely hope that yours do too.
Gehad, the last time we met was in May 2013 at then Prime Minister David Cameron’s country house, Chequers. There too was William Hague, then our foreign secretary. You came in your official capacity as the spokesman for the Egyptian President. The Freedom and Justice Party, your group’s political wing, had won the elections after Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. From prison to power, the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi was now running Egypt. Cameron wanted my counsel regarding your government. It seems so strange now to think of it, how people can rise and fall so fast. David Cameron is no longer Prime Minister due to Brexit, and Morsi is again imprisoned while you languish unjustly in solitary confinement since President Sisi took power.
Upon meeting you then, I remember feeling optimistic about you personally, though not your group. You were at the forefront of a small band of modernisers within the Brotherhood. I left that meeting thinking that if democracy was allowed to mature in Egypt, your group would have lost the next elections to a more secular party —just as eventually happened to your affiliate Hizb al-Nahda in Tunisia, and this could have empowered your modernising message even more so among your rank and file. And so I was hopeful that in the long run your message would resonate over the more conservative message of your leader, Dr. Badei’.
But then general Sisi orchestrated his coup.
This article continues at [Daily Beast] My Open Letter To A Jailed Muslim Brotherhood Leader