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Danger ahead

Interview: Kersten Knipp / gsw
December 24, 2012

Author and journalist Khaled al-Khamissi sees a difficult political crisis ahead for Egypt. He says the Muslim Brotherhood, with the support of the US, is trying to transform the country into an Islamic state.

Egyptian author Khaled al-Khamissi (c) Wilma Knipp
Image: Wilma Knipp

DW: There has been political uproar in Egypt for weeks. Now a constitution has been approved. How do you view the current situation?

Khaled al-Khamissi: The president is conducting a coup, and it's a drastic one. The president and the Muslim Brotherhood are trying to take control of various institutions - the parliament and the constitution. They have support from the US as well as from the oil states in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait. So they're trying to take over the state as quickly as possible. On the other side, all of the revolutionary powers reject this coup. They are saying as emphatically as they can that things cannot continue down this road. If the Muslim Brotherhood persists, though, there's going to be a disaster.

So I believe that the coming weeks and months will not be especially peaceful. It will come to a war between the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and the rest of the political powers on the other.

What does the Muslim Brotherhood want? What kind of society are they trying to establish, in your view?

The Muslim Brothers are very conservative and belong on the extreme right in the political spectrum. Economically, they are very close to the neo-liberals. That's why they're so close to the US and Saudi Arabia. In Egypt, there are many important business people who share the views of the Muslim Brothers. In the long term, they want to transform Egypt into an Islamic state.

In addition, these people are not real Egyptians because they want to make religion the sole basis of the national identity. It's a horrible thought that the president is not thinking of his country but of something else: an Islamic caliphate.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in his office at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's Freedom and Justice Party is allied with the Muslim BrothersImage: AP

So why has the Muslim Brotherhood been so successful with the poor and less educated?

There's a joke that explains why. It goes that President Obama calls Morsi and asks him where all the cooking oil has gone. It's a reference to the fact that the Muslim Brothers distribute cooking oil to their supporters - poor families in particular - in order to get their votes.

Participation in the most recent elections and the referendum was very low. That helps the Islamists because they're able to mobilize their supporters. Their opponents don't go to the polls because they don't know for whom they should vote. That's why I'm not especially optimistic in terms of the immediate political future of the country.

You've repeatedly pointed to US support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Why do you think it continues to receive American support?

The Americans are giving unqualified support to the Islamists. Why? For three reasons. First, the Americans think that the Muslim Brothers are very popular. By supporting them, they believe they're promoting social harmony. Second, they count on strictly hierarchical organizations. That way they only have to talk to the leaders, and everything will work. So far, that's worked very well in their relations with the military council, and now it will also work with the religious leaders. Third, the Muslim Brothers are serving the Americans well - in terms of the relationship with Israel, for instance. In addition, both societies are rather conservative and follow a rather conservative economic line.

Khaled al-Khamissi is a successful Egyptian author. His novel "Taxi" has been published in English and German translations.

Interview: Kersten Knipp / gsw

Egyptian election workers count ballots (Photo:Nasser Nasser/AP/dapd)
Egypt has a new constitution following a referendum last weekImage: AP
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