The Muslim Brotherhood's international charm offensive
The party with the most seats in the Egyptian Parliament is engaging in a worldwide image improvement campaign.
"We are the only major political party in Egypt that acknowledged we will honor the treaty with Israel."
The speaker was Dr. Amr Darrag, a senior member of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and the Muslim Brotherhood appearing this week in London. Following the FJP's success in the first free parliamentary elections to take place in Egypt, the party has begun sending delegations of party members to countries around the world, meeting with politicians and opinion-makers, in an attempt to convince them of the Muslim Brotherhood's new and moderate image.
This week, three FJP representatives visited London for talks with Parliament members, senior diplomats at the Foreign Office and journalists. Among other events, they took part in an open meeting at the Chatham House think-tank. In polished English and conciliatory statements, the Muslim Brotherhood charm offensive tried to persuade the packed audience that largest party in Egypt can do business with the world.
Dr. Darrag, the secretary-general of the FJP in the Giza province which stretches across half of Cairo and beyond said in an answer to one of the first questions regarding the future of Egypt's relations with Israel that "the needs of the people will be the driving force in our relations with the world. We are touring the world to draw a new map with the world. We declared many times that we acknowledge all the treaties signed by all Egyptian governments, including the treaty with Israel. 65 percent of Egyptians are in favor of maintaining a stable treaty." That doesn't mean that things will remain unchanged between the two neighbors – "Israel has not met its commitments toward the Palestinians, and this a major part of the treaty," said Darrag. "It is committing violations along the border and the inhuman blockade of Gaza. This would be allowed to pass in the past, because Israel was used to dealing with one person. We will honor the treaty securing our rights and commitments."
Gehad al-Haddad, a senior advisor the FJP's executive councils said that the new Egyptian government "would take care of all the Palestinian people's needs in Gaza. The Palestinian issue is central to the Egyptian people, this is the largest human rights abuse in the century, which may even border on genocide. We are now accountable to the people and we will make sure that in Gaza they have quality of life, electricity and food. We won't decide for the Palestinian people, they will decide and we will back them."
Regarding the FJP's future political plans, Darrag confirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood is reconsidering its decision from last year to not field a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections due to the recent "threats to the legitimacy of the freely elected parliament." A bid for the presidency would be part of the Brotherhood's "priorities" of "establishing a democratic state and a civilian state – free of military rule and technocratic control."
Al-Haddad said that since "the army has been in control of Egypt for 60 years, politically, bureaucratically, financially, it won't change overnight." He said that the party's aim now is that "the new constitution won't give the military oversight over the new government." He explained that some of the previous details of the manifesto the Muslim Brotherhood presented in 2007 are now being changed "because we are moving from the backseat to the driving seat." Among other changes, he said that the party is in favor of allowing the minority Coptic Christian communities to build churches in their neighborhoods without requiring a special presidential permit, a right that radical Islamic elements in Egypt oppose.