Interview with Head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan Nour al-Dayem,
|Sunday, July 20,2008 05:31|
*Translated into Arabic from Islamonline
This interview was conducted with the general observer of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan to shed light on the nature of the organization there, and what it has to offer to the Sudanese people.
Professor Nour Al Dayem isn’t seen only as an important historical figure for Muslim Brotherhood. He is also seen as a Sudanese top figure and an Islamic and Arab culture icon in Sudan. He worked as a lecturer in Khartoum University for more than three decades, and a dean of the Faculty of Arts. He gave many cultural radio programs the most prominent of which were episodes in the interpretation of the Holy Qur’an. He became leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan after the schism after which the group named itself the Muslim Brotherhood to be different from the group led by Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi under the name the National Islamic Front. He became a deputy general observer then he was elected in February 2008 a general observer of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan. In addition to this post, he is the chairman of the Education Committee in the Sudanese National Council "parliament".
The Muslim Brotherhood in the Sudanese street
The Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Sudan is the oldest in the Arab world after Egypt, but observers notice its weakness compared to the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Egyptian street for example, what about your position in the Sudanese scene?
Nour al-Dayem: Sudan’s Muslim Brotherhood can’t be compared with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is the founder. However, the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan is present in the Sudanese scene. The Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan is the creator of this current Islamic phenomenon in Sudan. The current government is one of the fruit of this group. Dr. Nafeh Ali Nafeh, an aide to the President and a leader in the National Congress Party said in his speech in the opening session of the group’s general conference this year:" I address the conference as a Muslim brother". Of course it is a word of compliment but we felt this feeling in our brothers state leading officials through our participation with them in the national program government then the national unity government formed after reaching a peace agreement between the North and the South in 2005.
No one can deny the influential nature of the Muslim Brotherhood but our question is specifically about the presence of group that you lead in the Sudanese scene, where is it?
Nour al-Dayem: The group is present with its figures and establishments. The group has many channels through which it is working: The Future Youth Care Organization which is working in the section of students and young men, and Women of Islam organization that works in the section of women and the Mercy organization that works in the field of charity and aid, plus other organizations that work in South of Sudan which is a huge activity. But, frankly speaking, we aren’t fully satisfied with the group’s performance. We hope that it develops to the better in a way that matches the group’s history, position and challenges.
Schism in the organization
The Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood faced some schisms and divisions in 1979 and 1991. What were the reasons?
Nour al-Dayem: In 1977 Al Turabi reconciled with the regime of president Jafar Muhammad An-Numeiry, ensuing political rows with the Muslim Brotherhood in this situation. Add to this, Dr Hassan Al-Turabi’s views were denounced by the Muslim Brotherhood. For these two reasons, the Muslim Brotherhood restructured itself and I was elected a leader. There are other brothers who were annoyed or had other problems and they left the group.
Regarding your reasons around the divisions, is there any other reason that made them leave?
Nour al-Dayem: Yes, they mentioned reasons for which the group is blamed. However, there are brothers who defected and they are currently expressing their desire to return to the group, topped by brother Yasser Othman Gadallah. I hope personally that these attempts are a success and that the group is reunited and all brothers who defected return to it again.
The problems facing the Muslim Brotherhood include the domination of the historical leaders over the group and its establishments. Do historical leaders still have the upper hand in the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan?
Nour al-Dayem: It is a problem but what shall we do if the Muslim Brotherhood and its grassroots elect these figures to lead the group? You know that people don’t like dramatic changes. They also feel at home with the leaders they have known for long years.
I wished that last February’s general conference of the group would have elected a young man as an observer of the group but the Brothers refused and elected the older generation to front lines in the group.
Where are the young men in the leading positions of the group’s establishments?
Nour al-Dayem: The latest conference achieved a considerable progress in electing young men to led sections in the group. The group’s Executive Office mainly consists of young men plus three historical leaders.
The Conflict of young men and elders
Was the domination of historical leaders over the group the cause of Dr Essam Ahmed Al Bashir to defect because he has abilities and the presence of these leaders blocked his upward rise in the hierarchy?
Nour al-Dayem: No, Dr. Essam defected for other reasons.
Why, then, has Essam Al Bashir defected?
Nour al-Dayem: Brother Essam Al Bashir was a Minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments for the Muslim Brotherhood in the national program government. This government was formed after the initiative of the National Accord proposed by Democratic Unionist Party- wing of Al Sherif Zain Al Abidin Al-Hindi, and after signing the peace agreement between the National congress led by President Al Bashir and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement led by John Garang. Before the National Unity Government was formed, the Muslim Brotherhood assessed its experience in taking part in the Ministry of Guidance in government. After this assessment, the group’s Advisory Council decided to exclude Dr Essam Al Bashir from the group’s list in the government. Dr. Essam refused the decision of the Advisory Council, defected and he is currently a member in the leading office of the National Congress.
Essam should have complied with the group’s decision because it selected him at first and selected some one else this time.
Has your relation with the National Congress been affected after Essam Al Bashir joined it?
Nour al-Dayem: Never. It was not affected
There have been leaked reports that there are contacts between the group and the Islamic Movement organization led by Sudanese vice-president leads Ali Othman after it was restructured in 2004. How far is this true?
Nour al-Dayem: Essam Al Bashir was enthusiastic for merging and integrating the group with the Islamic movement but the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders saw that the relation should not exceed coordination between both groups in national and Islamic issues, which is still the group’s attitude.
Some observers say that the emergence of Al Bashir’s Islamic government snatched the Sudanese Muslim Brotherhood’s project that calls for applying Sharia, is this true?
Nour al-Dayem: The Muslim Brotherhood’s objective isn’t merely assuming power and applying Sharia. It also aims to make the values and principles of Islam deep rooted in the life of society and day-to-day life of people day.
Era of the Salvation government
At the beginning of the Salvation government era led by Al Bashir in 1989, you took an opposing attitude although it adopted Islam as a source of authority, why?
Nour al-Dayem: Because we wanted to disavow the government’s mistakes that it committed although it raised the banner of Islam. Islamists had to criticize these mistakes and violations. For example, how can the group remain silent when 28 officers were killed after an unsuccessful coup against the regime in the holy month of Ramadan or killing of a young man for possessing hard currencies "dollars"? The group didn’t keep silent towards this injustice because injustice is injustice whatever its source.
But you returned and became part of the political regime under the "National program government." Who has changed? You or the regime?
Nour al-Dayem: In fact, the government offered the Muslim Brotherhood a bilateral participation in the regime from the very beginning, but we- in the group-refused that wording to remain closer to attitudes of the big national parties, and keeping the dialogue open over reaching a "national accord". This actually happened later with the initiative of Al Sherif Zain Al Abidin Al Hindi. The group was the first to call for a national accord and called on parties to join it.
After President Al Bashir excluded Dr. Al Turabi from Sudanese government, you participated with force in it, was Al Turabi an obstacle in front of your participation?
Nour al-Dayem: Of course the main disagreement between the Islamic movement that leads the government and the Muslim Brotherhood is related to the attitude towards Dr. Al Turabi and his ideas and that he has personal views which are rejected by the Muslim Brotherhood. When he was fired, the Muslim Brotherhood felt that the obstacle is over and it increased its participation in the government and restructured its attitudes towards it.
What is the size of your participation in the Sudanese government?
Nour al-Dayem: We participate according to quotas allocated to the political powers approved by the comprehensive peace agreement in parliament with a number of MPs and we participate in the executive government by a Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Brother Dr. Sami Abd Al-Dayem. We also take part in provincial governments. We see that our participation is useful to the group as the participating bothers gained experience and managed at the same time to serve people.
Do we expect that your attitude regarding unity with the Islamic movement may change after Al Turabi calls it quits?
Nour al-Dayem: No; because our declared attitude has been taken after Al Turabi was fired.
The Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan and Islamic reviews
Does the Muslim Brotherhood have initiatives for the solution of Darfur?
Nour al-Dayem: The Muslim Brotherhood has no separate initiatives to solve the Darfur problem. However, it cooperates with other national powers and freemen to solve this problem and return things to normal because it is- you know- a big problem. I called on the parliament in the last session for the need to hold elections because this opens peaceful outlets for a power sharing and the representation of states in the central government.
Has the MB declared statistic about its members?
Nour al-Dayem: There are approximate figures and the group is growing every day but it hasn’t announced such figures. The group even does not announce all its leaders because situations and stances may change. Generally speaking, the group is spread over most Sudan’s states: in Khartoum, Aljazeera, the River Nile, Senar, Kurdufan, Kasla, the Red Sea and other states.
Does the group have a presence and members in South of Sudan?
Nour al-Dayem: The group has a big Islamic work in the South of Sudan. We think that the South needs this now and it is a target of the group.
Sudan will hold elections next year, what is the group’s attitude towards this?
Nour al-Dayem: Wesee that Islamic and national powers should run under one single election front because other powers may run under one single election slate. Unity of the Islamic and national powers is a safety valve for this country.
What do you mean by national powers? Can you ally in the election with the Communist Party for example?
Nour al-Dayem: The national powers are the Sudanese political powers that played a role in the public life in Sudan, particularly the two big sects: Al-Khatmiya and Al-Ansar. Definitely, other various Islamic action groups are also national powers.
As for forging a coalition with the Communist Party in elections, it isn’t on the table for us. The Communist Party itself will seek political partners which are similar to its political projects in Sudan.