Egyptian Politician: 'Street Politics' Aren't Helpful

In Egypt, tensions have risen in recent weeks as government security forces have clashed with street protestors. For more, Robert Siegel talks with Abdul Mawgoud Dardery about the political situation in Egypt. He's a member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political party of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Joining us now, as he has in the past, is a leading member of Egyptian president Morsi's party, Professor Abdul Mawgoud Dardery. He's head of the party's foreign relations committee and was elected to the parliament that has since been dissolved. He's running once again from his city of Luxor. Welcome back to the program, Professor Dardery.

DR. ABDUL MAWGOUD DARDERY: Thank you, Robert, for having me again.

SIEGEL: You are a moderate voice within the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party. Does the visit of President Ahmadinejad to Egypt suggest to you a realignment in Cairo toward the Iranian regime?

DARDERY: Not necessarily a realignment, but Iran is very close to Egypt. That does not mean the relationship is against any particular country, but it is important for both people to be able to develop better relations on the same idea that we agreed upon from the very beginning of the revolution, which is mutual understanding and mutual respect.

SIEGEL: Since we spoke last, there were violent protests against the government of President Morsi, and Egypt witnessed the kind of crackdown by security forces that your party and members of the Muslim Brotherhood used to associate with the Mubarak regime, frankly. What should President Morsi do right now to calm the anxieties of those Egyptians who fear that what's coming is an authoritarian Islamist regime?

DARDERY: Not at all. The street politics is not helpful for anyone. What we need to do is the rule of law. And if we can voice our concern as Egyptians - whether opposition or the ruling party - through the democratic institution, then we'll be able to provide a better alternative for Egypt and for the rest of the Arab world.

SIEGEL: But part of the argument that's made, and part one of the explanations for the recent instability, is that the Muslim Brotherhood did so well in the elections that were had they were so better organized that anyone else that they are now in a super majority position and they are abusing that majority status at the expense of minority rights.

DARDERY: I don't think so. In Egypt, we welcome strong opposition because a strong means a strong government. All we would like to do is we call up on the opposition to get united. And they are not willing to put their heads together and provide a better alternative to Egypt. So what they're doing is they're playing this street politics. The street demonstrations are fine, as long they are peaceful.

SIEGEL: But if declaration of a state of emergency was necessary, I mean, doesn't that say that there's been a serious problem and a serious issue of instability in Egypt?

DARDERY: To predict the lives of each and every Egyptian, President Morsi had to impose the emergency law. But it was imposed for a limited period of time and within the law. The people in the street need to do it peacefully and the police have to act within the law.

SIEGEL: Is it fair to say that neither did that, that neither did the protest...

DARDERY: I think so.

SIEGEL: ...nor did the military act within the law?

DARDERY: I think so. Yes, that is very true with the case, unfortunately, though.

SIEGEL: This is a question about an issue in U.S.-Egyptian relations. President Morsi said not too long ago that he would ask President Obama to provide more lenient treatment for Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman. This is the Egyptian cleric who is serving a life sentence for planning bombings in New York City. He's often referred to here as the blind sheikh...

DARDERY: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...someone who is linked to terror bombings. His lawyer even was convicted of passing messages from him to potential terrorists. First, do members of you party regard Sheikh Rahman as an admirable figure, as a political prisoner in this country?

DARDERY: I think the way we look at it as a human case. This man is old, he's blind. And we wanted him to be treated fairly mainly on a humanistic perspective.

SIEGEL: But you studied in this country. You've stayed here long enough to get a sense of how Sheikh Rahman was viewed by Americans in the 1990s. Do you think any American president would respond favorably to that request?

DARDERY: From a humanistic perspective, maybe. But from a legalistic perspective, I don't expect so.

SIEGEL: Do you expect President Morsi to take some initiative that might heal the wounds that were evident in those antigovernment protests and in the crackdown against those protesters?

DARDERY: I believe so. And, in fact, he made four times called for dialogue. The difficulty is the opposition. It's putting conditions for the dialogue before it happens. And once there are conditions, then dialogue becomes useless.

SIEGEL: You would regard the role, say, of Mohamed ElBaradei - the Nobel laureate - right now as unconstructive, obstructing progress? What would you say?

DARDERY: If - not many Egyptians call it destructive.

SIEGEL: Destructive?

DARDERY: Yeah. It is very unfortunate. The National Salvation Front is called National Destruction Front. And we don't want...

SIEGEL: But its critics you're saying?

DARDERY: By its critics, yes. What we need to do, we really need a campaign similar to that in America. Let us stop fighting and start fixing the problems in Egypt.

SIEGEL: Professor Dardery, thank you very much for talking with us.

DARDERY: Thank for having me. And I'm really happy to be with you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Abdul Mawgoud Dardery is - was elected to the Egyptian parliament and is an official of President Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party. That is the party of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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