Abdel-Fattah Sisi, the former military chief who removed Egypt’s Islamist president and who is now poised to win the post in elections this month, said the Muslim Brotherhood will never return as an organization, accusing it of using militant groups as cover to destabilize the country.
Sisi spoke in the first TV interview of his campaign, aired Monday, vowing that restoring stability and bringing development were his priorities. The comments were a seemingly unequivocal rejection of any political reconciliation with the Brotherhood, which was Egypt’s most powerful political force until Sisi removed President Mohammed Morsi, a member of the group, last summer.
Since ousting Morsi, Sisi has been riding an overwhelming media frenzy lauding him as Egypt’s saviour, and his status as the country’s strongest figure all but guarantees him a victory in the May 26-27 election. Sisi’s only opponent in the race is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, the third-place finisher in the 2012 election won by Morsi.
Sisi’s comments were a stark signal of his intention to ensure the elimination of the 86-year-old Brotherhood as both a political and ideological force in the country. He is building on an unprecedented popular resentment of the group, after its rise to power in the last three years.
Asked whether the Brotherhood will no longer exist under his presidency, Sisi replied, “Yes. Just like that.”
“It’s not me that finished it, the Egyptians have. The problem is not with me,” he said.
In the joint interview with two private Egyptian TV stations CBC and ONTV, Sisi directly accused the Brotherhood of being behind the campaign of bombings and shootings. He said the movement “created” Islamic militant groups to use as “covers to fight from behind … to keep the movement away from any accusations”. He said a senior Brotherhood leader had warned him that if he removed Morsi, extremist fighters from Afghanistan and elsewhere would come to Egypt to fight.
The Brotherhood denies any connection to militants.
He said the Brotherhood’s ideology was based on “arrogance in religion” – and the presence of that strain of thought had destabilized Egyptian society for decades.
“The thought structure of these groups says that we are not true Muslims, and they believed conflict was inevitable because they consider us non-believers,” he said. “It will not work for there to be such thinking again.”
He appealed to public to support the police and the armed forces in their fight against terrorism.