News / Middle East

Egyptian Female Professor Targets Young in Bid to Save Brotherhood

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 27, 2013.
Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi march in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 27, 2013.
Reuters
With a spare bed always ready for friends on the run, Wafaa Hefny is not your average English literature professor.
 
In her spare time, the 47-year-old veiled academic is trying to save the Muslim Brotherhood, the outlawed group that Egypt's army-backed authorities brand a “terrorist group”, by ensuring it remains committed to peaceful change and rejects violence.
 
With most Brotherhood leaders, including Egypt's deposed president Mohamed Morsi, now behind bars, the granddaughter of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna is one of the movement's few influential figures still at large.
 
Hefny wants to prevent a frustrated younger generation of supporters from taking up arms in the face of one of the toughest crackdowns on the group and its 86-year history.
 
“The harder the state presses us, the more committed we should be to peaceful activism. That is what gives us strength. Violence would be very dangerous for us,” she said.
 
“There are some young Islamists and others trying to get our youth to become violent. We have to stop this.”
 
Resorting to violence would be disastrous because the movement would lose its moral high ground and provide an excuse to the government to crack down even harder, Hefny said.
 
To give the young an outlet to let off steam, Hefny organizes clandestine meetings where they can use social media, write film scripts and design anti-government logos.
 
Children as young as 10 daub graffiti on walls mocking Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the general who ousted Morsi last July after mass protests against his rule. Sissi is tipped to win next month's presidential election in Egypt.
 
“This is starting to move things and give them ideas ... To keep people going so they can discover new things,” said Hefny, a tall imposing figure who lives in a middle class district.
 
Hefny also directed a play starring Brotherhood youth which had a simple and ambitious plot: the movement would one day return to power and Sissi would face a court martial.
 
  • Riot police detain a man who was taking part in a protest against a new law in Egypt that restricts demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Riot police fire a water cannon to disperse people protesting a new law restricting demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Police fire a water cannon to disperse a protest by dozens of activists commemorating the death of a protester a year earlier, Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters shout slogans against a new law in Egypt that restricts demonstrations, in downtown Cairo, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Cairo University students shout slogans against the military and Interior Ministry in front of riot police at the main gate of the university, Cairo, Nov. 24, 2013.

Pressures
 
Such initiatives may not be enough to restrain young people in the Brotherhood, which steadily earned popularity over the decades by providing social services to Egypt's poor but faced repression under one autocratic ruler after another.
 
Apart from the crackdown by security forces, Brotherhood youth face many other challenges. They are demonized by the state press, thousands of their comrades are in jail and jobs are all too scarce in Egypt's gloomy economic climate.
 
Hefny said jailed members such as Morsi had diminishing sway while emerging new leaders were offering the young a greater say in how the famously hierarchical movement is run.
 
In a sign the movement's old guard understands the dangers of radicalization, its exiled secretary general issued a lengthy statement on Tuesday underscoring the Brotherhood's history of peaceful activism and rejecting the use of violence.
 
The letter from Mahmoud Hussein was the highest level statement from a senior figure not jailed in the crackdown.
 
Egyptian authorities have not provided evidence to back their accusations that the Brotherhood is involved in terrorism, but it is clear that younger members are losing patience with the movement's traditional pacifism.
 
In a downtown Cairo cafe, a Muslim Brotherhood member who only wanted to give his first name, Mohamed, said some leaders of what he calls youth cells told him they were considering the use of lethal force against policemen with blood on their hands.
 
“We know where these people live,” the youth, who said he was tortured in prison, told Reuters.
 
A second member, who requested anonymity, said: “Of course some youth will want revenge and killings are taking place on an individual basis.”

More than 1,000 pro-Morsi supporters have been killed by army and police forces during a major crackdown on two protest sit-ins in Cairo in August last year.
 
Though adamantly opposed to violent reprisals, Hefny said she believed men in the security forces who have abused detained women members of the Brotherhood should be publicly shamed.
 
“We harass these security men who rape. We send messages to them and write on their houses. We say 'your father or son did this' and this will pressure them to stop',” said Hefny.
 
General Ahmed Helmy of the Interior Ministry's media section denied all Brotherhood allegations of torture or rape.
 
“We ask any prisoner who has a complaint to submit an official complaint and we will investigate fairly and until that gets proven, then it is all talk with no evidence,” he said.
 
Hefny, who teaches at Al-Azhar University, said she was constantly reminded of the risks she faces because of her work for the Brotherhood. Secret policemen sometimes ask her neighbors for information about her, she said.
 
Asked why she was not already in jail, Hefny smiled and recalled her grandfather who was assassinated in 1949.
 
“This is love that comes from the spirit of Hassan al-Banna,” said Hefny, who uses an old model cellphone she thinks cannot be tapped. “Also my mother prays for me every day.”    

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
April 11, 2014 1:25 PM
Yeah, catch them young, radicalize them and send to do suicide jobs. Zawahiri is an Egyptian, isn't he? Hefny is hooded, masked, or do you say she is veiled; she teaches the young - even as young as 10yrs old - the hate doctrine. How does Hamas, a nearby Brotherhood organization, behave towards civility and neighbors? Violent! All that talk about avoidance of violence is a diversion. They are meant to grow up to become extremists. Already we can feel the fruits of it - they know where the security agents and operatives live; they will attack them individually.

How else do you describe terrorism? And the children are taught to write graffiti on the walls of those they have been taught to hate - that is terrorism learned at infancy that is ever difficult to wash away. This makes the Muslim Brotherhood the most dangerous terrorist enclave in the world because it recruits, indoctrinates and radicalizes them from their tender age. It forms part of them that to turn around is practically impossible. With everything she has to say here, the veil and the masked teaching of hatred, especially to under-aged children, betray Hefny, the grand daughter of the infamous founder of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid