Former Muslim Brotherhood member Ibrahim Rabie - Egypt Today/Ahmed Maarouf
CAIRO - 28 October 2018: Egypt Today interviewed defect of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood Ibrahim Rabie who was member of the “Elite Committee” to have insight about the recruitment mechanism of public and influential figures and the mentality of its leaders.
How did you join the Muslim Brotherhood?
I was born in 1962 for a rural family and grew up in Sharkeya governorate. I currently live in Giza. I got a bachelor degree in business in 1985 from the University of Cairo. I worked in the publishing field and founded a publishing house called Al Thuraya. I joined the brotherhood when I was 16 in 1979 because of its “Preaching Caravans.” Those were groups of students who used to recruit youngsters from mosques in villages and rural areas.
Three of those visited a mosque near my house, and talked about religious matters with people who were present there. Their talk had nothing to do with shaping human conscience or morals. It was focused on myths. One of the three named Sanaa abou al-Yazid approached me and kept in touch. He used to invite me to his workplace which was a charity hospital called The Islamic Association, and pay me visits at home. That technique in the brotherhood's terms is called “Individual Preaching.” It was nothing but recruitment and polarization.
In the second phase, which is six months later, he introduced me to four others. Those are Atef Abdel Rashid who is the owner of the religious TV channel Al Hafez and currently lives in Turkey, Akram Ghorab who is the brother of Al Jazeera presenter Hazem Ghorab, and two others from Giza. I had just found myself a Muslim Brotherhood member and in charge of preparing the discursive content promoted among the group.
Did you remain an ordinary member?
I got promoted and became the deputy head of the group in al-Kom al-Ahmar area in Giza. Later, I was assigned the youth department in Giza. Then, I became in charge of students training all over the country. I later worked in the administrative development committee with Sherif Abou al-Magd, professor in engineering school at Helwan University. We both founded the “Friends Reception Committee” which comprised preacher Amr Khaled, Helmy al-Gazar, Mohamed Abdel Kodous, and I. It later turned into the “Elite Committee.”
What were the tasks of that committee and why did the Supreme Guide Bureau choose those names?
The committee was created to penetrate the society’s elite in all fields, whether businessmen, media personnel, politicians, and athletes, and recruit some of them. Helmy al-Gazar was chosen because he is member in the sports club Al Ahly. Amr Khaled and Mohamed Abdel Kodous are members in the social clubs Al Gezira and the Egyptian Shooting Club since the society’s elite is there. I was the secretary general of that committee.
Why did the brotherhood target celebrities to become members?
Because celebrities have a fan base, and thus, some of those fans may join the brotherhood when one of those public figures announces he did at a specific moment. That is in addition to other ends like what happened in the case of footballer Mohamed Abou Treika whose support for the brotherhood caused confusion after June 30 Revolution.
But, Abou Treika denied he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood?
He can say whatever he wants. The majority of the brotherhood's leaders denied their affiliation to the group during their trial sessions.
What are the top figures who were part of the Elite Committee?
Businessman Safwan Thabet, judges Ahmed and Mahmoud Meki and Walid al-Sharaby, athletes Mohamed Abou Treika, Hady Khashaba, and Mokhtar Mokhtar, and former artist Mohamed al-Araby.
Did you see Mohamed Abou Treika in the committee’s meetings?
Recruited elite figures were not invited to the meetings. The committee is responsible for the selection process of potential recruits. For instance, Amr Khaled used to preach in the clubs in the presence of the committee’s members. We would keep an eye on the attendees and see who got touched the most. Later, we would report it to the brotherhood member connected with him to facilitate his recruitment.
What do you think of hooligan groups the Ultras?
The Ultras were created by Khairat al-Shater who funded them generously. We as members did not unfortunately know about those matters. I used to question the relation between the brotherhood and the supreme devil the United States. The truth unveiled when Abdel Moneim Abou El Fotouh uncovered all secrets when he fought with al-Shater. Abou El Fotouh considered himself the second Hassan al-Banna and members used to call him the second founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Amr Khaled denied his membership in the brotherhood. Did he attend any meetings of the Elite Committee?
I worked “a lot” with Amr Khaled in the “Friends Reception Committee” which turned later into the Elite Committee and he used to invite us to his house.
Did the brotherhood target businessmen to receive funds?
Businessman Safwan Thabet (owner of Juhaya Group) played a major role in favor of the brotherhood when he was member in industrial chambers and gained allies to the group.
Did you deal with Mohamed Morsi in the prison?
I dealt with him inside and outside the prison. In prison, I started thinking thoroughly and asked the brotherhood leaders, like Helmy al-Gazar, about what we were doing and why we were in prison. He replied that the brotherhood wants religion and Sharia to take over. I responded saying that we were not working toward that goal so he questioned “those strange ideas” I started to have. He referred me to the head of the political department Mohamed Morsi. When I talked to him, he told me, “stop your mind from thinking about those things and watch your mouth.”
Was that the only meeting with Mohamed Morsi?
There were many other meetings. When we were preparing for parliamentary election in 2005 whereas 88 Muslim Brotherhood members won, there was a coordination between the brotherhood and the National Front For Change led by Hamdin Sabahi. We were surprised that Morsi was ordered to breach the deal with the National Front For Change, and ordered us in one of the meetings to support the candidates of the National Party of Egypt.
Why and how did you exit the brotherhood?
While I was in prison, I had time to think thoroughly and understand why we were building an iron brotherhood, although our goal is supposed to be religious, and why we were preaching, although our goal is political gains and competition over power. I could not find answers. Hence, I froze my membership in the brotherhood in 2006. However, I announced my defection in 2011 because of my meeting with Helmy al-Gazar after January 25 Revolution. I told him that when we were talking about financial and moral violations within the brotherhood, you (the leaders) were asking us to keep silent in fear of security checks and scandals. I thought as there was no state at the time and the country fell into chaos, it was an opportunity for the group to reveal everything to the people, restructure the brotherhood, and make its status legal. I asked him to announce the group’s budget but he told me to keep that talk for myself accusing me of attempting to crash the brotherhood.
What did you do later?
I thought that was al-Gazar’s personal opinion so I drafted a restructuring project and submitted copies to each member of the Supreme Guide Bureau.
And, did you receive any response?
I got no response so I asked Helmy al-Gazar to adopt my project and implement any illuminating projects within the brotherhood forming a committee comprising all qualified members. He told me your ideas are Platonic. From now on, you are not one of the Muslim Brotherhood but one of its rivals.
What were the violations?
Moral violations like heterosexual and homosexual relations among members. Embezzlement, and financial corruption. All was known to the brotherhood leaders.
But, the brotherhood used to chant moral slogans, promote virtue and encourage women to put on veils?
These campaigns were just a cover serving the purposes of blackmail and political marketing. Essam al-Arian used to say that veil is the integral sign of the popularity of the brotherhood. However, when we were confronting our leaders with the violations I mentioned before, they used to respond saying that the brotherhood is part of the society including its diseases and sins. Yet, when we were talking about veil in our religious campaigns, we used to consider ourselves the representatives of religion and virtue. The brotherhood used to perceive veil as an indicator of its strength on the ground and popularity rather than a religious commitment.
If the brotherhood used to consider veil a political gain? Is any of the wives of its leaders was unveiled?
The brotherhood do in private what they do not do in public. When I was in charge in the group, I used to listen to the songs of Um Kalthoum in my car but would never play them when someone is riding with me. Ali Batikh and some leaders got in the car with me once, and when Batikh turned on the audio and a song of Um Kolthoum played, he threw the CD out the window. When he asked me why I possessed that CD, I lied as I was used to lying. The same persons used to listen to Nancy Ajram songs and dance in secret. There is no agreement among clerics that veil is mandatory.
What do you think then of face veil?
Face veil has no ground in religion or social norms. Ultra religious Jewish women put on face veil that is very similar to that worn by female Salafists.
Back to financial violations, are the brotherhood’s assets and budget the outcome of members’ subscriptions?
The subscriptions matter is a fraud. Those cannot cover the costs of tea served in the brotherhood’s meetings. The spending outweighs the subscriptions. The budget allocated to the Supreme Guide Bureau comprising around 20 persons was huge. The salary of the supreme guide was LE35,000 per month.
The brotherhood was receiving foreign funds in addition to its investments, and involvement in legal and illegal trade. The leaders in charge of finances, such as Youssef Nada, Ghaleb Hemat, and Zaghloul al-Nagar, traded in arms, drugs, cement, and iron. The brotherhood has investments in Bahamas Islands where they founded a charity called “Virtue Bank” to be used in money laundering. It also has investments in some Gulf countries, Malaysia, England, and the United States. The group spends a big load of money on public relations companies. Since June 30 Revolution, the brotherhood paid LE2 billion to public relations companies to polish its image globally.
When you were still member, was there any communication between the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist factions?
The top leaders of the brotherhood are in contact with all Salafist factions (ultra conservative Islamic groups) including Jihadist Salafists. However, the brotherhood considers Salafists as competitors. That is why in 2005, the political committee has set a plan to face the growth of Salafists influence which was facilitated by Al Nas TV channel achieving popularity for Salafist icons such as Mohamed Hassan, Mohamed Hussein Yacoub, and Abou Ishaq al-Howeini, and Mohamed Hussein Yacoub.
What are the main features of that plan?
Calling Salafist figures mentioned above and others on air and ask questions whose answers are either yes or no in order to cause them problems with both the state and the people. In parallel, the brotherhood pushed preachers that look like Salafists such as Hazem Salah Abou Ismail, Salah Sultan and others. By the way, the majority of Salafists are hypocrites.
Was the brotherhood used to celebrate October 6 Victory?
The brotherhood did not celebrate the victory in 1973 but celebrated October 6, 1981 when late President Anwar Al Sadat was assassinated (by brotherhood members while attending a military parade). It considered his assassination a victory for Islamist factions.
Since June 30 Revolution, the state has been fighting terrorism. How do you perceive the role of the political factions and the elite regarding counterterrorism efforts?
The state fights terrorists. Fighting terrorism is the responsibility of the well-accomplished elite who failed the society. Unfortunately, politicians and intellects raise doubts on the efforts deployed by the state to fight terror. They are co-opted as they praise the state when they are close to power, but when they are away, they condemn it. They betrayed the Egyptian people.