Waheed Hamed - Taken/Hayssam Samir
Aired in Ramadan 2010, the first part of El-Gamaa retold, over 28 episodes, the origins of the Muslim Brotherhood and the detailed story of its founder Hassan al-Banna from his childhood until his assassination in 1949. Seven years and two revolutions later, Waheed Hamed’s second part of the historical drama is finally seeing the light this Ramadan.
Part II of El-Gamaa was supposed to air in 2011 but Egypt saw a revolution and a wide period of instability that delayed the production. When the Brotherhood rose to power and Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012, their minister of information Salah Abd El-Maksoud banned the first part from being rerun on Egyptian TV. Another revolution then erupted in 2013 and the project went on hiatus.
Hamed took those seven years to work hard on researching and writing the script of this second part which will span 30 episodes depicting the exploits of the Muslim Brotherhood under the leadership of their second Morshed (Supreme Guide), Hassan El-Hodeiby (played by Abd El-Aziz Makhyoun) and their conflicts with King Farouk (played by Mohamed El-Bayaa). The series will then move onto the late Nasser era, along with the rise of Sayed Kotb (played by Mohamed Fahim) whose ideologies and books have since become the bases of violent jihadism.
Series creator and acclaimed screenwriter Waheed Hamed talks to et about the second part of El Gamaa, the Brotherhood and his two upcoming works.
Why did you choose to name the series El-Gamaa (The Society) and not Gama’et El-Ikhwan (The Society of the Muslim Brotherhood) to make the title more distinctive?
For everyone, if you say El-Gamaa it will immediately refer to the Muslim Brotherhood. I will also tell you something I never mentioned before: Al-Gamaa has the same syllable of al-essaba (the gang) in Arabic and this is the title the series indirectly refers to.
In 2010, the first part came to an abrupt end without showing the assassination of Hassan El-Banna—instead he was shown to have been defeated by the rest of the Brotherhood members who took over, leaving him regretful and wishing he could go back to teaching religion. What was the symbolism of that ending?
Historically, El-Banna died morally before his assassination. He was powerless against the other members of the Brotherhood who took over. I did not want to close the curtains on the first part with an assassination because his assassination is a crime. What interested me is to show the death of the idea rather the death of its founder.
I also think that if El-Banna wasn’t assassinated and continued to live, the Brotherhood would have died with him of natural causes. Although El-Banna showed modesty, he was a media man who loved the lights and cherished having names like “Al-Imam” or “Man of the Light.”
Do you think El-Banna was influenced by non-Islamic ideology when he founded the Brotherhood?
I can say that El-Banna was influenced by Masonry, Fascism, Zionism and Shiism, which he studied very well. There are symmetries between the rules of the Muslim Brotherhood and those of Freemasonry; oath, allegiance, complete secrecy and absolute obedience. El-Banna was also heavily influenced by the order of the Assassins (Hashshashin), a branch of Shia that existed in the 11th century and was founded by Hassan El-Sabbah.
The proof is that even before joining the Brotherhood, Sayed Qotb himself used to address Hassan El-Banna as Hassan El-Sabbah. It was Egyptian novelist Abbas El-Aqqad who said that Hassan El-Banna was of Moroccan-Jewish descent. But from our side, we didn’t have information about El-Banna’s grandfather.
What we knew of his father is only that he was a mosque teacher and of his childhood is that he learned how to fix watches, hence the nickname Hassan El-Saaty (the watchmaker), which shows a meticulous character.
The second part of El-Gamaa focuses on the conflict between Nasser and the Brotherhood, especially with Sayed Qotb whose ideologies were said to initiate violence. Can you elaborate on that?
Qotb worked for years at the Ministry of Education, hence with the government, with aims to be promoted to minister. When this seemed impossible, he switched sides and joined the Brotherhood where he became chief editor of their magazine. Qotb’s ideas and books were mostly influenced by the ideas of the Pakistani Abul A’la Maududi.
Unlike stories about him being tortured in prison, Qotb spent most of his incarceration at the prison’s hospital due to his health conditions. Due to their friendship since the days that preceded the 1952 revolution, President Nasser gave orders that books and publications are permitted to reach Qotb during his imprisonment. However, Qotb conspired twice with the Brotherhood to assassinate President Nasser.
The first was during the famous El-Mansheya incident in 1954 that resulted in his imprisonment. Qotb was let out of prison by the end of 1964 at the request of Iraqi Prime Abdel- Salam Arif, for only eight months before being arrested again in August 1965 and accused of plotting to overthrow the state. These events will be dramatically depicted in the second part.
What’s the importance of El-Gamaa during our current times?
El-Gamaa is not your regular television series. It is a challenge; I must rewrite history in an adequate dramatic form that can be digested by a wide range of viewers, regardless of their age or culture. It took an incredible effort to research and write the episodes. The first part of El-Gamaa introduced the viewer to their origins and the second part will continue to do so. I think that all the events of the first part were brought to life during the period of Morsi’s presidency from 2012 to 2013: The part where people had delusions about the Brotherhood being good religious people who wanted Islam to prevail and then finally discovered the truth. They are not a religious group but they are a political and economic group. The Muslim Brotherhood has a very strong economy within Egypt that can, until today, compete with the local economy of the country.
Speaking of the economy, what do you think of the Brotherhood satellite channels broadcasting from Turkey?
Although we live in a world of overpopulated media venues, I am sure that in Egypt, after two revolutions, the people have reached enough maturity that permits them to differentiate between truth and lies. The media of the Brotherhood cannot change the year when they ruled Egypt, despite any lies they may spread.
In the aftermath of the 2013 revolution and the dispersal of the Raba’a sit-in, many thought that the fleeing members of the Brotherhood could assemble a government in exile. Do you believe they would do something of the sort?
Like we witness in the second part, the Brotherhood has always tried to initiate a state within the state but this won’t happen because we are one country and one system.
They want their own state. But the Egyptian people tend toward a civil state rather than the state that the Brotherhood wants to establish—an economic and business state pretending to be Islamic and religious. After 85 years, the Brotherhood has roots and power that still deceive many people. One of the examples in their history that we will see in the second part is when there was a conflict between King Farouk and the Wafd Party, the Egyptian people took to the street cheering, “The people support al-Wafd, The people support al-Nahhas.” So King Farouk went to the Brotherhood for support and they then hit the streets cheering, “God supports the King.”
You have two other film projects related to the Brotherhood—one is historical and revolves around the Assassins and the other is contemporary about the Ittihadeya incident in 2012. What’s the status of those?
The script for the Assassins was put on hold due to its forecasted high budget. Another reason behind the delay was a drama by Jordanian producer Talal Al-Awamlah who asked me for a favor; to postpone the film for the release of his series. However, that was last year and he hasn’t started production till now. As for the second film, I think we will shoot it soon.