Brotherhood Spokesman Discusses Egypt's Future

The Muslim Brotherhood has refused to talk with anyone from the Mubarak regime. A spokesman for the group, Essam Al-Aryan, speaks to host Robert Siegel.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now to a voice from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group in Egypt that's long been banned by the government. It is denouncing the violence and accusing the Mubarak regime of attacking innocent people. President Mubarak has warned the West for many years that the only choice in Egypt is his government or a government led by radical Islamists.

Well, earlier today, we reached the spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Essam Al-Aryan, on a scratchy phone line in Cairo. And I asked him about Mubarak's contention and whether the Brotherhood is committed to a democratic and secular state of Egypt.

Mr. ESSAM AL-ARYAN (Spokesman, Muslim Brotherhood): I think Mr. Mubarak used this argument to make some threat to the West and to create support for his regime. It's the big lie. Muslim Brotherhood is nonviolent, moderate organization. It is not included in any violent attacks during the last four or five decades. I think we are calling for a democratic state, federalist state. And I think Mr. Mubarak is supported by the United States for 30 years and now he appears to be worse than Saddam Hussein.

SIEGEL: One reason for U.S. support of Hosni Mubarak is that he maintained Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. Thinking ahead to a post-Mubarak regime in Egypt, would the Brotherhood push for renunciation of that treaty or would it acknowledge Egypt's recognition of Israel and its renunciation of force?

Mr. AL-ARYAN: I think the credibility between Egypt and Israel these days is very low. After the appeal of Netanyahu that America must support Mubarak, I think this statement is very dangerous for stability here now. The peace is a very cold peace between the Egyptians and the Israelis. It needs a revision.

SIEGEL: You're saying that the cold peace that exists between Egypt and Israel needs revision. A cold peace is still a peace. It means there isn't a threat of an out and out war between Egypt and...

Mr. AL-ARYAN: Oh, no threat of war. The people are not rushing for war. But it is not our duty to protect Israel from Palestinians. We are not guards for Israel.

SIEGEL: One other point. You say the Muslim Brotherhood is a democratic and moderate organization these days. When we think back to the past struggles between the regime and Islamist groups, there have been Egyptian Islamists like Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the number two in al-Qaida today. How is he regarded? Is he regarded...

Mr. AL-ARYAN: Ayman al-Zawahiri all the time criticizing us.

SIEGEL: Criticizing the Brotherhood.

Mr. AL-ARYAN: Yes. He wrote many books against Muslim Brotherhood. And you must differentiate in the West and America between the different groups in the Islamic scene.

SIEGEL: So the old days of the Islamic group in Egypt, the Brotherhood distances itself, separates itself from that old movement of Islamism in Egypt?

Mr. AL-ARYAN: Yes. Yes.

SIEGEL: Should Egypt provide any assistance at all to the United States in its war on terror and its war against al-Qaida?

Mr. AL-ARYAN: United States must respect the will of the Egyptian people. The United States must not interfere in the domestic issues of any country. Thank you, sir.

SIEGEL: That's Essam Al-Aryan, who's a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, who spoke to us from Cairo.

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