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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs