The founder of a new group called Christian Brotherhood denied allegations about the group’s exclusive focus on Christians and stressed its dedication to national issues and the principles of citizenship.
Prominent Egyptian political analyst and founder of the Christian Brotherhood Michel Fahmy said there is no direct relationship between the creation of the group and current events.
“The idea of the group came to me a long time ago and it was not triggered by the death of Pope Shenouda or the formation of the Constituent Assembly in charge of drafting the constitution,” Fahmy told Al Arabiya’s Studio Cairo Sunday.
According to Fahmy, the Christian Brotherhood does not have any religious agenda and that is why it is different from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is originally a preaching group, but we are not.”
The similarity between both groups, Fahmy explained, is basically the fact that the Christian Brotherhood wants to take part in the political scene like the Muslim Brotherhood does.
“We can reap the fruits of our efforts decades later like what happened with the Muslim Brotherhood, but we are not after power.”
For the time being, Fahmy added, the Christian Brotherhood is mainly concerned with the issue of citizenship for all Egyptians, not only Christians.
“The name of the group aims at highlighting its Christian character and the way it aims at introducing Christians to the Egyptian society as an effective group that can take part in the country’s development.”
Fahmy also denied that the group is affiliated to the church even though the idea originated in the Anglican Church.
“Our only relationship with the church is prayer. People need to realize that Christians can play a role apart from the church and that the church is for preaching purposes and not politics.”
The group’s main priority, Fahmy noted, is to become part of civil society not through providing people with monetary funds, but rather through tackling the most critical issues Egypt is currently facing such as illiteracy, the marginalization of women, and challenges to tourism industry.
“We depend in our work on helping Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, to develop skills that enable them to be active citizens. For example, 34% of Egyptian families are supported by women and that is why the empowerment of women is very important.”
The group, Fahmy pointed out, will also work on spreading unbiased political awareness.
The slogan chosen for the group is similar with variation to the one the Muslim Brotherhood has been adopting since its inception: “Love of Egypt is the solution.”
For Fahmy, the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan “Islam is the solution” alienates many Egyptians while the Christian Brotherhood’s slogan includes all and rejects all sorts of divisions.
Fahmy refuted allegations that the Christian Brotherhood was formed in order to become the Christian version of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We have studied the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and we made sure to avoid all the mistakes they had committed which made their failures more than their successes.”
Fahmy expressed his surprise at the objection the group faced upon its establishment and before it was out to the test.
“People have to see our performance first then judge. Also, there are 17 Islamic associations in Egypt, so why would a Christian one be criticized?”
Fahmy added that Christian Egyptians are peaceful by nature and would never want to enter a confrontation with Muslims or with the state.
Regarding the membership of the Christian Brotherhood, Fahmy said that it is up to each Christian to decide to join or not.
“We are not putting any pressure on Christians to become members of the group. It is entirely up to them.”
Unlike expectations about objections exclusively coming from Islamists, prominent Christian figures also had their reservations about the establishment of the Christian Brotherhood.
“This group will isolate Egypt’s Christians exactly like Islamist groups do,” said Naguib Gobrail, head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights.
Gobrail objected to the formation of religious-oriented groups in principle and argued that polarization resulting from such groups is what excluded Christian from the Constituent Assembly, whose members are to draft Egypt’s first post-revolution constitution.
“If Christians have reservations about the structure of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has a military wing and receives foreign funding, then they should not form a similar group.”
Gobrail found it unlikely that this kind of group will not be after power as Fahmy claimed.
“Any group that takes part in politics will have political ambition. The only exception is if it only focuses on political awareness.”
For Gobrail, if the group is only concerned with civil society work, it should have been called any other name that does not refer to a religious identity.
“Why add fuel to the fire while the Egyptian society is already as a result of the actions of similar groups and their religious mobilization?”
The Christian Brotherhood, Gobrail pointed out, also embarrasses the church because its establishment gives the impression that Christians will enter a confrontation with the state.
“The church is the representative of Christians and it will be automatically linked the group and held accountable for its mistakes.”
Gobrail argued that forming a Christian Brotherhood in a country where a Muslim Brotherhood already exists will eventually turn Egypt into another Lebanon.
“Egypt will be swept with sectarian tension and we have already seen the outcome of such tension in the exclusion of Christians from the committee that will draft the constitution.”
Gobrail said that Christians in Egypt do not need such a group to prove their presence in the scene.
“The January 25 Revolution was made by both Muslims and Christians. Christians are present, but we do not want these labels and it is better to ask for an Egyptian presence.”
In addition to deepening the rift between Christians and Muslims, Gobrail argued that the establishment of the Christian Brotherhood is likely to lead to the establishment of more Islamist groups.
“Many extremist groups can be formed by Islamists in response to the Christian Brotherhood and this is not the right time to risk such a reaction that is bound to complicate things more,” he concluded.s
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)