We are prepared to ally with Muslim Brotherhood - Christian Brotherhood
By Mohamed Abdul-Rauf
Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat –Coptic political activists on Thursday announced the
formation of a secular group called the “Christian Brotherhood” in Egypt as
a parallel to the Muslim Brotherhood. This idea was first put forward in
2005 by Coptic lawyer Mamdouh Nakhla, director of the Cairo-based World
Centre for Human Rights. In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat,
Nakhla talks about the formation of the Christian Brotherhood, the reasons
behind this, and his hopes for the political organization’s future.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where did you get the idea to form the Christian
[Nakhla] We got this idea after the Muslim Brotherhood successfully came to
power in Egypt; therefore we decided to establish an equivalent group, named
the Christian Brotherhood. This is a political organization whose objective
is to reach power [in Egypt].
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What steps have you taken to turn this idea into a
[Nakhla] After we reached an agreement on this, idea, and presented it to
the public, we received thousands of membership requests to join this
organization. After we complete the membership procedures, we will register
the group at the Egyptian Ministry of Social Affairs, so that this
organization has legal status. We will avoid the dilemma faced by the Muslim
Brotherhood, whose operations are illegal, because it is an unofficial
organization that is not registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs,
which is responsible for the activity of all non-governmental organizations.
Following the registration process, we will form a [political] party which
will serve as the political wing of the Christian Brotherhood, and we intend
to call this party the “Justice and Freedom Party”, in the manner of the
political group of the Muslim Brotherhood [the Freedom and Justice party].
[Asharq Al-Awsat] So the formation of the Christian Brotherhood is tied to
Freedom and Justice party candidate Dr. Mohamed Mursi’s election as
[Nakhla] Of course, for although the Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1928,
they successfully came to power despite the fact that for a long period of
this time they were considered an illegal group and were pursued by state
authorities. If the Muslim Brotherhood model was an unsuccessful one, they
would not have been able to reach power. This is the most important thing,
namely for our idea to be successful, even if this takes 20 or 30 years,
particularly as our group is going to be legal, registered and subject to
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will membership to the Christian Brotherhood be limited to
[Nakhla] No, membership to the organization will be open to anybody who
wants to join…although this does not deny the fact that the main body will
be made-up of Christians. However, if any Muslim agrees with the objectives
of the Christian Brotherhood and wants to join, then they are most welcome.
Dr. Rafiq Habib, for example, is the deputy leader of the Freedom and
Justice party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he is a
Christian. He believes in the objectives and ideas of the Muslim
Brotherhood, and has therefore joined this group and is promoting their
views; in fact sometimes he is even more unwavering in this than the members
of the Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Bureau themselves!
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What political approach will the Christian Brotherhood
[Nakhla] The new group will follow a completely liberal and secular
approach; we will not be a religious group in any way, shape or form. In
Germany, for example, there is the Christian Democratic Union, and this is a
political secular party where the term “Christian” is just part of the
organization’s name, nothing more. This is what we intend, and our new
organization will not be based on religion.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will the leader of the Christian Brotherhood occupy a
position similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood’s General Guide?
[Nakhla] Yes, there will be an equivalent position, and this position may
even have the same name [as General Guide]. To put it simply, we have been
convinced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s success in coming to power,
particularly as this group is still officially illegal. This is why we
intend to implement this same idea, utilizing even the same hierarchy and
positions, which may even have the same names [as their Muslim Brotherhood
counterparts], but in a legal manner.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you expect any objections from the Muslim Brotherhood
regarding your replication of their idea?
[Nakhla] They cannot object to this idea, for if they object, then this
means that they must dissolve their own organization. The new Egyptian
president, Dr. Mohamed Mursi, is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and he
does not deny this; so if the president will not resign from this
organization or prohibit its activities, how can he ban another organization
that is precisely the same, but which is also legally registered, simply
because it is called the Christian Brotherhood? If he did this, we would
accuse him of racism; whilst if he took the decision to dissolve our
Brotherhood, then this means that they must dissolve their own Brotherhood
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the Christian Brotherhood’s major political
demands? Are these limited to the demands of Egypt’s Coptic Christian
community, or will this extend to all of the Egyptian people?
[Nakhla] We will focus on the demands of Egypt’s minorities and the demands
of the Christians in particular. However we will also defend any oppressed
class in general, we will defend all the social and political demands of the
Egyptian people. Our operations will not solely focus on the Christians,
because we are not a racist organization, and if the Muslim Brotherhood were
no longer in power and found themselves being persecuted, then we would
defend them as well!
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How do you envision the Christian Brotherhood’s
relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood?
[Nakhla] We have no problem whatsoever in dealing with the Muslim
Brotherhood, in fact we are prepared to politically ally with them and take
part in elections with them on a joint list, which could be called the
“Egyptian Brotherhood” list. We may support their presidential candidate in
any future elections, on the condition that presidential and ministerial
posts are shared between us. Therefore, if they were to win the presidency
then the vice president would be a member of the Christian Brotherhood,
whilst if they form a government, ministerial portfolios would be shared
between us, each according to their [parliamentary] proportion.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Wouldn’t such an alliance face difficult challenges, most
importantly the Muslim Brotherhood’s implied support for the idea of a
[Nakhla] This would be a secular political alliance; it would not possess
any religious context whatsoever. Our principle is that Egypt is a civil
state that encompasses everybody. Egypt does not belong to any single
segment of society or group; it belongs to all of the Egyptian people,
regardless of their religion or political views.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you not believe that dividing political posts in this
manner, based on sectarian or religious considerations, will lead Egypt to
the Lebanese quota model and the accompanying national disunity and chaos?
[Nakhla] On the contrary, I believe this will strengthen national unity,
because such divisions are already present. There are Muslims and
Christians, whilst within the Muslim community there are Sunnis, Shiites,
Salafists and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates. As for the Christians, there
are Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, and Evangelists.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the Salafists, do you truly expect the
Salafists to welcome the establishment of a Christian Brotherhood?
[Nakhla] So far, the Salafist front in Egypt has welcomed this idea. Dr.
Khalid Said, official spokesman of the Salafi Youth Front, said that so long
as the Christian Brotherhood operates within the law and works in the
national interest, then there is nothing wrong with its formation. We also
have no problem with allying with the Salafi Youth Front, as long as they
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria? Are
they supporting the Christian Brotherhood in any way?
[Nakhla] The Church has stayed on the sidelines so far. It is no secret that
before the revolution, it opposed us [Coptic political activists] out of
courtesy to the former regime, however today the Church is sitting on the
[Asharq Al-Awsat] As a Coptic political activist, how do you view the new
phenomenon of some hardline Islamists attempting to impose their ideology on
[Nakhla] We have warned of this practice for some time, and a number of
sides expressed their doubts over this, however today our warnings have been
confirmed following the most recent incidents. These incidents include the
killing of a youth in the Suez last week; simply for working in the street
with his fiancé…therefore the situation is very dangerous.