Interview with Dr Aly El Samman
By Mona El Haddad for Al Akhbar
The following was taken from an interview with Dr. Ali El Samman, President of the International Union for Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue (ADIC)
Q. Why hasn’t the spirit of can-do spread to other social endeavors, after opening the New Suez Canal?
A. Definitely the New Suez Canal and what was achieved has, with no doubt, made every Egyptian quite happy. Still I believe that there are some powers that are not pleased at all. Frankly speaking, when I saw Omanaa Al Shorta (noncommissioned police officers or NCOs) demonstrating in Al Sharkia Governorate, I did a double take. Reports said that some officers received promotions and high salaries, while the NCOs got nothing. If that is true, then an investigation is in order. However, we also heard that the Brotherhood was behind these demonstrations, which would be shocking to many. Let me tell you this, the contrast between the joy of the opening of the New Suez Canal, and the recent protests should come as no surprise. Those who begrudge us the success of the Suez Canal willdo what they can to create disturbances and project a sense of failure on various fronts.
Q. What do you think of the movement “No to Religious Parties”?
A. Frankly, I am not very enthusiastic about the term ‘Religious Parties’, because this term encourages a flurry of explanations and exaggerations about what is meant by the term. We must draw the line between politics and religion. Confusing the two things is extremely dangerous, and in no one’s interest. Q. Some would say that excluding certain currents from politics is against democratic standards.
A. The term ‘religious parties’ involves a reaction to the Brotherhood’s role, and what the group sought to achieve. For example, if we were to speak of ‘religious parties,’ would you say that the Brotherhood mustn’t be excluded? Nobody will agree to that; nobody wants to even hear about Brotherhood, I am not referring to the nation here (army, police and national security) I mean the Egyptian people. Egyptians do not want to hear the word ‘Brotherhood’, because the public have paid the price for their violence lately. So if I were to speak of allowing a Brotherhood Party back into the scene, no one would ever approve.
Q. What kind of percentage do you expect the political Islam current to have in the next parliament?
A. I cannot give you a percentage, but what I can tell you is that there will be many obstacles for that current to overcome to get a sizeable representation. I am certain their number will be limited.
Q. You were the media advisor for President Anwar Sadat, what were the main traits of this man of war and peace?
A. Sadat was an exceptional historical character; he was very forward looking. That is an important trait for a politician. I was his media adviser from 1973 till 1974. When I asked to leave my post, he agreed, but he told me that he would still need me outside the framework of that job. I found out later that that he wanted someone to work on enhancing the relationship between himself and leading Jewish figures around the world, people who are capable of advocating peace and have exceptional influence. So I went in search for such figures and found five of them for him to meet during a trip to Paris. Among these people was Sir Siegmund Warburg who was a Jew of German origin and became a major player in the British stock market after he fled Hitler. When that man sat with President Sadat, he was the only one who did not speak. I asked him later for the reason, and he said that when you sit with people who make history, the best thing to do is to listen.
translated from Al Akhbar